A feature-length adaptation of the 2018 short film of the same name by director Carey Williams and screenwriter KD Dávila, Emergency follows Sean (RJ Cyler) and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins), two friends who are determined to be the first Black students at their college to complete a “legendary tour” of frat parties. The unexpected discovery of a passed-out white girl in their home quickly throws their plans into disarray – all too aware of the assumptions the police are likely to make about their circumstances, the boys and their roommate, Carlos (Sebastian Chacon), decide to try and get her to a hospital. Things escalate, testing Sean and Kunle’s relationship to breaking point and exposing America’s ugly racist underbelly.
Emergency is a film with a great deal to say about race, and it wastes no time in saying it, firing shots at institutional racism from the very first scene and not pulling a single punch throughout the movie’s runtime. The depth and breadth of the piece’s analysis are impressive, and the direction and writing work together flawlessly in service of these explorations, playing with conventions of narrative and genre to paint a comprehensive and complex picture of the Black experience.
At times the film adopts the visual language of the classic college comedy, at others it becomes more of a thriller, and these two disparate aesthetics feed into each other and create a distinct and engaging atmosphere throughout. These expertly paced shifts in mood help add an underlying sense of unease and tension that heightens the effectiveness of the film’s social commentary, exposing the duality of American society and constantly keeping its audience on edge.
The great writing and slick direction of Emergency are bolstered heavily by its talented cast. Cyler and Watkins are phenomenal as Sean and Kunle, able to match the shifts in tone perfectly and deliver excellent performances that go from funny to emotional without a single dip in narrative momentum.
Emergency is a fantastic film, offering intelligent and incisive social commentary along with strong character work to at once challenge and entertain its audience. It’s equal parts funny and disturbing, with the writing and direction working hard to turn a straightforward plot into a complicated and compelling cinematic experience.
Emergency is released on Amazon Prime Video on 20th May 2022.
Watch the trailer for Emergency here: