Emergency (R18, 105 min) Directed by Carey Williams ****½
Rightly winning a screenplay award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, director Carey Williams’ feature version of his award-winning 2018 short of the same name is an audience-pleasing comedic thriller that unfolds on one night.
Conjuring up memories of Superbad and Booksmart, it follows the misadventures of two African-American college students as they attempt to become the first black men on their campus to complete a legendary seven-man tour.
Sean (RJ Cyler) and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) are only two months away from graduating. However, the two friends and roommates have very different attitudes towards their studies. While Kunle is extremely conscientious and determined to do his best, Sean is much more relaxed, much to the chagrin of the former’s mother.
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However, both had been looking forward to – and planning for – this event for some time, a chance to etch their names in the history of the institution and create the legendary Hall of Firsts.
However, despite apparently having everything ready, it doesn’t take long for their evening to go awry. After having to return to Kunle’s lab to check the fridge that houses his valuable bacteria that is the subject of his thesis, they return to their apartment to find their roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) engrossed in a video game and an unconscious white girl. in their living room.
Panicked that she might be dead, the trio are unsure of their next move, though Sean is convinced the cops shouldn’t be called.
“How do we not know any white people? he shouts, as they hatch a plan to drive her to one of the parties and carefully leave her outside. “We don’t drop it – we just send it back where it came from,” Sean reasons.
What follows are an increasingly chaotic few hours of misunderstandings, misconceptions and revelations, as our trio’s attempts to deal with their new arrival are fraught with pitfalls and mounting tension.
The skill of Williams and screenwriter KD Davila (Motherland: Fort Salem) is to balance the absurdity of the situation with a believable modern context of suspicion and mistrust between races.
There are times when we can’t help but laugh out loud and others when we fear for the safety of our “heroes”.
This tension helps draw you into the story, ensures it’s above the usual “one last night crazy party” genre fare, and keeps you guessing at the end result until the final footage.
Emergency is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.