Sundance 2022 Film Review: Emergency | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, January 26th, 2023  


Studio: Amazon Studios
Director: Carey Williams

Feb 01, 2022 Web Exclusive
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Carey Williams’ Emergency is a sharply-penned, rapid-fire dark comedy that acts as both a typical college buddy story and a rumination on racism in America.

The film follows Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins), a type-A personality constantly focused on success, and his best friend Sean (RJ Cyler), a laid-back personality more focused on experiencing the extracurriculars of college life. On the Friday marking the beginning of their university’s Spring Break, the two set out to become the first black men to complete the “legendary tour,” a party-crawl that hits all of the biggest fraternities on campus. When the two go home to change, their plans all come crashing down when they find an unconscious young woman lying on their living room floor.

From there, the film quickly switches pace. After getting their roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon), who has been playing video games in his room all night, the three decide whether to risk calling the cops or to take her to the hospital themselves. Afraid of what will happen if the cops take this sticky situation in the wrong way, the three decide to take the woman to the hospital themselves. What follows is a series of misadventures, one after another, as the three struggle to make it to their destination.

Due to the serious nature of the film’s premise, Emergency is tasked with balancing two very different tones, attempting to deliver humor while also showcasing the dire nature of the three’s situation. The film is largely successful at achieving this objective, weaving back and forth between laugh-out-loud comedic moments and deeply serious dramatic beats in a consistently engaging and thought-provoking way. This achievement is attributable to the film’s script, which never shies away from highlighting just how horrifying the central situation of the three characters is. Instead, screenwriter K.D. Dávila focuses on creating a group of characters whose charismatic and kind-hearted natures consistently keep the film light and easily digestible, even when the film is tackling heavy-handed concepts.

The clashing genres at play throughout Emergency also bring a variety of themes to the surface. These themes range from light ideas, such as friendship and “bromances,” to heavier ones, such as systemic racism and police mistrust. Attempting to communicate all of these ideas within the span of one cohesive product is a difficult undertaking, and at certain points, the film does feel a little thematically lost. For the most part, though, the film’s persistence in dissecting these concepts makes them apparent in a memorable way. As a result, Emergency feels both timely and timeless.

At the center of the film is a trio of excellent performances, all of which stand out on their own and blend seamlessly together. In the film’s leading roles, Watkins and Cyler deliver incredibly dynamic performances, moving seamlessly between different emotions when the script calls for it. Their chemistry is completely believable, which in the process, makes the film’s conflicts feel much more natural. In the film’s premier supporting role, Chacon does an excellent job portraying his character, consistently delivering comedic lines and quick one-liners that help alleviate the tension throughout much of the film. (

Author rating: 7/10

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