Review: ‘Emergency’

If asked, I’d have a very hard time placing Emergency, directed by Carey Williams, into a specific category. And that’s a good thing. From it’s solid buzz coming out of this year’s Sundance film festival to its (hopefully) successful purchase onto Amazon streaming services soon, the film is a potent hybrid of buddy comedy, dark humor, and biting social commentary whose seemingly simple idea far exceeds easy categorization.

The buddy comedy part comes in first as we meet college students Kunle (Donald Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cyler). As mismatched as Abbott and Costello, Kunle is all business in his studies while Sean is focused on the night’s big plans of attending all seven of their campus house parties in one fail swoop. In fact, while Kunle is sweating over his biology project, Sean is already half drunk and high in preparation. Their repertoire comes fast, easy, and amusing.

The dark comedy part comes soon after. They return to their apartment to prepare for their adventurous night to find their door open and their roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) oblivious to the fact that a drunk girl (Maddie Nichols) is unconscious on their living room floor. Add to the fact that she’s white (and they’re not) and probably underage, the trio don’t make the best decisions when they choose to try and dump the girl somewhere else before the police and society in general cast disbelief on their innocent story.

The social commentary comes hard and fast after. Emergency slowly dials up the tension- and the very hostile repercussions- as the three roll through a series of misadventures with the girl’s sister (Sabrina Carpenter) and her friends in comedic Nancy Drew pursuit behind them. It’s in the final third where Emergency swerves into a believably urgent turn, bringing in all matters of current socio-political and racial rhetoric as Kunle, Sean and Carlos try and do the right thing when every outside force is pressing against them. Needless to say, it balances all the tones wonderfully.

Extrapolated from a short film several years ago, Emergency is a strong calling card for filmmaker Williams and writer K.D Davila. It’s no surprise Williams was recognized by Filmmaker Magazine a few years ago as one of their rising faces of independent cinema. Alongside writer Kristen “KD Davila, Emergency taps into a current of anger and distrust while not losing sight of the humor that can also infiltrate that space of self. It’s a film that understands both can exist in the same moment. I look forward to whatever the duo cooks up next.

Emergency opens in limited release on Friday May 20th. It begins streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday May 27th.