Crown Heights is based on the harrowing true story of Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield), a Trinidad native living in New York who is falsely accused of murder and goes to prison for 20 years. Boyhood friend Carl 'KC' King (Nnamdi Asomugha) does whatever he can to prove his friend's innocence. King not only goes into debt but even sacrifices his marriage in his attempt to free Warner.
This true story is compelling and the details are maddening. For instance, the actual shooter in the murder is caught but won't make a deal in court stating that he is solely responsible. In fact, he is adamant that Warner was his partner in crime.
The performances are good, and the dream-like sequences of long ago memories or desires for the future are really well done. Giving the viewer a true sense of Warner's incarceration is seeing the simple memory of him waking up in his own bed in his apartment and deciding to go to the corner store to get a slice of cake. In his reality, it is a freedom he no longer has.
Unfortunately, writer/director Matt Ruskin's movie suffers by trying to stuff 20 years of information into a 100-minute movie. The results play like an extended preview trailer of an emotional greatest hit. Characters never have a chance to breathe and become full, complicated beings, and some of the story's twists and turns just don't resonate. This is actually really frustrating. If a longer version of this film exists I'd like to see it, because it seems like there is a great movie in there instead of just a serviceable one.