- Movie Rating -

Emergency (2022)

| May 28, 2022

It would not surprise me if Carey Williams’ Emergency somehow found itself among the year’s Best Picture nominees next January.

I know, I know.  That’s a bold statement, but I want to make sure that I’m not misunderstood.  It’s not that I think that Emergency is a grand achievement or anything.  I think its a very good film and I was caught up in it.  But something about this movie feels like a modern post-#oscarsowhite Best Picture nominee, a socially relevant quasi-comedy that takes a skewer to the reality of a particular issue and lays it over a crazy premise.  The texture of this movie would feel right at home with Promising Young Woman and Get Out.

I kept thinking that all through the movie as the script kept trying to counter-balance it’s issue with it’s comic momentum.  The issue is racial paranoia and the comic momentum is wrapped up in one of those overnight shenanigans comedies that takes place in one night and circles around events that get crazier and crazier like American Graffiti, Into the Night and After Hours.  

The plot here involves two college buddies at Buchanan College who are at opposite ends of the priority scale.  Sean (RJ Cyler) and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) are young, black and headed for graduation, but while Kunle is pushing hard to finish his biology thesis, Sean is satisfied to bide his time smoking weed and finding the last of the great college parties.  His goal is something called “The Legendary Tour,” a college tradition in which they visit seven legendary frat parties all in one night, passing through the drug and alcohol cocktails until they reach the final party – apparently an earthly delight of sex and debauchery.

This is something that means more to Sean than it does to Kunle, but he’s apt to go along with it because apparently no black men in the history of Buchanan have ever completed the tour.  This leads to one of the best sequences in the movie, which I’ll leave for you to discover.  What makes the relationship between Sean and Kunle so real is their full awareness of the world in which they live.  Yes, they are tucked away in the comforts of an expensive college, but they are fully aware of the viper’s nest that exists for young black men.  In one class, they are confronted by an uncomfortable lecture on the power of that  word, which their professor utters several times, in an academic context of course.  Sean and Kunle are shaken by this.  They are aware of the future that awaits them, but the shock of this lesson plan stays on their minds as their evening odyssey begins.

If you haven’t seen the trailer then the movie’s opening scenes give no indication of what the rest of the film offers.  With that, I will proceed with . . . 

*** light spoilers ***

Returning to a house that they share with their blitzed out buddy Carlos (Sebastian Chacon, who bears a weird resemblance to Eddie Redmayne) they discover a young girl passed out on their living room floor.  She is unresponsive save for the pool of vomit that she unconsciously deposits on their hardwood floor.

What to do?  Kunle wants to call 9/11 but Sean reasons that this might be impossible because 1.) he and Carlos are high, 2.) they’re cops and 3.) they’re black.  They decide to drop her off somewhere safe, but all indications leave them with the feeling that this isn’t going to happen.  This may be a comfortable college setting but the neighborhood just beyond is a little sketchy.

What happens from there is just one damned thing after another as the situation gets worse and worse and worse.  One obstacle leads to another including an seemingly disconnected subplot involving the girl’s sister (Sabrina Carpenter) who is drunk at a frat party and notices to her alarm that her kid sister has gone missing.  The way that her story intersects with Kunle and Sean is kind of clever.

More I cannot say.  The rest of the movie is event after event as they boys try to bring the unconscious girl around and to figure out what to do with her, and her sister tries to locate her.  Actually, I couldn’t really spoil it if I wanted to, it’s one of those series-of-events narratives for which you really just had to be there.

I enjoyed the movie a great deal, I laughed a couple of times and I was surprised at how dense the relationship between Sean and Kunle really got.  They’re not just the odd couple, they really do care about each other and the movie builds these two characters beautifully, particularly button-down Kunle whose world is shaken by the night’s events.

If I have an issue, it may be the running time.  Its too long.  At 105 minutes, it could have been shored up by half an hour.  The last 45 minutes sort of grind to a crawl as we get the obvious message that it laid on over and over.  Screenwriter KD Dávila probably could have summed it up in some writing that was a little tighter.  But that’s not to say that this is a bad movie.  I liked the way that she counter-balances the racial issues at the beginning with what happens at the end.  This is a good movie, a well told story.  But the ending could have been tighter.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Drama