Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

If you must classify this picture into a genre, it might be another “one crazy night” movie. Think American Graffiti, After Hours, Dazed and Confused, and Superbad. Not only did I list those in chronological order, but they’re also ranked from best to still good. I’d place Emergency after all of those — and probably behind Adventures in Babysitting and Thank God It’s Friday too. The chronicle subverts expectations. I’ll give it that. I expected a lighthearted comedy with likable protagonists that would extract wit from a well-orchestrated plight. No. Nope. Sorry.

Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) is a gifted college student majoring in biology. The strait-laced fellow has just gotten into the graduate program at Princeton and is currently working on his thesis, growing live cultures in a petri-dish or something. Meanwhile his hedonistic best friend Sean (RJ Cyler) aspires to complete the “Legendary Tour,” a circuit of seven frat parties in one night. Opposites attract I guess. Their fanny pack-wearing roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) isn’t part of their evening’s plans, but he gets sucked up into a night of chaos when an unknown woman (Maddie Nichols) is discovered passed out in their living room. Now you’re probably thinking, call 911 and report the emergency, right? And to be fair, that is what Kunle wants to do, but Sean convinces him that — because they’re black and Carlos is Latin — the police would view them as suspects. “We call the police, we die,” Sean contends. So the trio decides to drive the heavily inebriated girl to a hospital and just drop her off out front. Let the fun begin! Except it’s not fun.

Emergency is an utter mess of tonal shifts. The narrative is constructed like a comedy. The boys’ plans keep changing because nothing goes their way. Yet there aren’t laughs because every situation they find themselves in is easily avoidable. These three lads make one ridiculously stupid decision after another. You really have to suspend disbelief. At one point, Emma (the unconscious girl) becomes alert. Disoriented she screams at the top of her lungs, breaks Carlos’ nose, and punches driver Kunle in the back causing an accident. She escapes the van of her own volition. They’re off the hook, right? Wrong. The boys hunt her down and drag her back to the vehicle. This leads to more mayhem — naturally.

I think director Carey Williams and screenwriter K.D. Dávila are trying to say something about racial politics in America. What exactly that is, I’m not so sure. Kunle may be deemed “black excellence” but he submissively agrees to every one of Sean’s bad ideas. Meanwhile, Sean talks crude and is all about boozing, pot-smoking, and edible-eating. He’s constantly high. The screenplay offensively writes off his character as a lost cause. Meanwhile the police indeed turn out to be the good guys. Surprise! They serve and protect. I failed to find a satisfying purpose or grand truth after watching these superficial shenanigans. Emergency aims at all sorts of various targets during its runtime but never has the temerity to take any of them down.


5 Responses to “Emergency”

  1. This sounds a bit like a poor man’s 2015’s Dope. Which I liked overall but that too had some rough storytelling and tonal shifts/character decisions. I’m gonna sit down and watch this one day because I do love RJ Cyler but I’ll keep my expectations in check.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh boy. Black kids, White kids and Hispanic kids making one dumb decision after another while high. Made no sense and wasn’t even funny. 1 1/2 ⭐️


  3. Rachel's Reviews Says:

    It was my favorite out of Sundance. I thought it balanced the tension and humor well and the contrast in each boys perspective was interesting. Oh well

    Liked by 1 person

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