By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Miscarried justice often provides the perfect vehicle for emotionally wrenching dramas, and such is the case with Matt Ruskin’s “Crown Heights,” a film which deserves praise for capturing the realism of underdogs fighting against the odds.
Powerful and unsettling, this Sundance Film Festival award winner produced by former All-Pro NFL Player Nnamdi Asomugha, is based on the true story of a Caribbean immigrant who spent decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
The film starts off in the spring of 1980 when a teenager is gunned down in Flatbush, Brooklyn. A child witness is pressured by the NYPD to identify a suspect resulting in Colin Warner’s (Lakeith Stanfield) arrest. Eighteen-year-old Warner, who is from nearby Crown Heights, is picked up while running errands for his mother and ends up being wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. What follows is a battle by Warner’s childhood friend Carl 'KC' King (Asomugha), who devotes his life to fighting for Colin’s freedom, eventually becoming a legal courier to lead the fight for his exoneration after tireless appeals.
Throughout the film, Stanfield as Warner, emerges as a likable man with an astonishing ability to reject anger and bitterness. At every point, he is at the center of the story, and he carries the film with an impassioned performance. Stellar in the role, playing the character at several ages between 18 and 48, he does a solid job of bringing dignity and realism to the role. Asomugha, (who produces the drama under his company iAm21 Entertainment ) as Carl King, Colin’s crusader, also doesn’t disappoint.
It's a film, which explores the power of friendship, for as the movie chugs inescapably forward, King’s unwavering devotion to his friend is remarkable. He dedicates his life to overturning the murder conviction, even risking his own marriage in a quest for justice that toils through 20 plus years of self-sacrifice and heartache.
"Carl King is a larger than life character and in this film," shares Asomugha, who is also a producer on "Waiting for Hassana," a documentary short film about the 2014 abduction of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram. "I spent a couple weeks with Carl beforehand, but I think I got more from talking with his friends and his family about it than I did from him. Just the way he approaches things, the meticulous, fastidious ways that he tackled the whole project (of freeing Colin) that was in front of him. It was like tunnel vision. And that's what I tried to bring to the film,” adds the actor who is married to actress Kerry Washington and has two children with the "Scandal" star.
With acting credits that include roles in "Hello, My Name is Doris," and "Friday Night Lights," Asomugha's producing credits include the award winning film "Beasts of No Nation." Prior to his work in the entertainment industry, the Nigerian native was a highly successful professional football player who spent 11 seasons in the NFL playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.and as considered one of the best defensive players in the league, receiving multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections over the course of his career.
Exclusive: Nnamdi Asomugha Co-Stars in Criminal Drama 'Crown Heights'
By Samantha Ofole-Prince