By Dustin Mason
Imagine if you combined “21 and Over”, “Dope”, “Weekend At Bernies” and a dash of “Crash”. You’d get the shockingly good “Emergency”.
Director Carey Williams gives us a dark comedy-thriller(based on his short film) that follows two black college students(Donald Elise Watkins/RJ Cyler) who are about to embark on an epic night of partying when they stumble upon a passed out young white woman(Maddie Nichols). Now you think they’d call the cops but of course since they’re appropriately paranoid about having a misunderstanding with the cops(that they assume will end deadly and not in their favor), they, along with their Mexican roommate(newcomer Sebastian Chacon in a breakout performance), attempt to drive her to the hospital. Yeah, everything will be totally fine. Borat voice NOT.
Williams’ handle of the tone in the first hour is quite impressive. The first half is consistently hilarious, with Cyler as Sean delivering his funniest performance yet. He’s like Seth from “Superbad”, Costa from “Project X”, or even Smokey from “Friday”. But Cyler’s natural ability to deliver a punchline and make you question whether that was scripted or not is truly impressive. He’s been hitting it out of the park since “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” with scene-stealing turns in Showtime’s “I’m Dying Up Here” and last December’s “The Harder They Fall“. He delivers especially in the dramatic scenes here, his chemistry with the truly heartbreaking Donald Elise Watkins (Kunle) is sensational. His 3rd act monologue particularly shattering. Kunle’s seemingly is a “Carlton” but Watkins always feels in the moment, earning some genuine laughs. Sebastian Chacon as Carlos, previously mentioned, is destined to be the breakout performance for a lot of people. From his entrance, he was perfect for this awkward goof. You could call him a “Latino McLovin”, but he’s much more than that. He’s not some third wheel the main characters low key hate, he’s just a jackass wgo really cares about his friends, loves granola bars, and is always nice, even when his nose gets broken. He just goes in the van, listens to Bad Bunny and wipes away the blood. Carlos is the man. The rest of the ensemble was fine, but our 3 leads should be in everything for the next 17 years.
Once the one hour mark passes, the pacing and tone become a little sloppy. Nothing detrimental, just noticeable is all. The whole point of the film is the characters are paranoid of racial injustice, so I’m not bothered that these characters aren’t making the “right” decisions. It’s the choice to include dramatic music to make scenes more tense, directly after you have the characters sing “Staying Alive” in unison(that will totally be in the trailer to make this look more like a broader comedy, mark my words), that kinda distracts me. Some of the preachiness of the movie bleeds into certain characters. The dramatic moments work better than let’s say a “Queen and Slim”, which feels like it’s banging you over the head with a tire iron the entire time.
Ultimately, this film being about two best friends on opposite sides of the spectrum, yet still sharing a similar bond, is powerful enough for me to call this a coming of age classic in the making. It has a consistently emotional throughline, whether it be dramatic or comedic. Even if I wish this was even funnier than it was, it ended up being funnier than I expected which is beyond satisfying. It’s just nice to see a movie where two friends actually have thoughtful conversations.