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'Crown Heights'

U.S. Dramatic; 99 minutes.

A real-life case of injustice is retold with precisely channelled outrage in the riveting drama "Crown Heights."

On April 10, 1980, a teen named Marvin Grant was shot and killed in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. That night, police arrested Colin Warner (Lakeith Stanfield), an 18-year-old immigrant from Trinidad. The police want a confession, and the DA wants an easy plea bargain. But Warner refuses to back down from his protestations that he didn't kill anybody.

Thus begins a decades-long ordeal, with Warner in prison for a crime he did not commit. Back in Brooklyn, Warner's childhood friend Carl "KC" King (Nnamdi Asomugha) labors tirelessly to get Warner out of prison — raising money for lawyers, pursing clues to the crime, even getting licensed as a process server to get better access to good lawyers. The other person who supports Warner is Antoinette (Natalie Paul), who grew up in the same neighborhood.

Writer-director Matt Ruskin lays out the facts of Warner's plight — a case that was highlighted on public radio's "This American Life" and mentioned in Ava DuVernay's justice documentary "13th" — in harsh terms. Not only does the film detail the legal challenges, it also depicts in raw terms Warner's prison experience, struggling against rival gangs, vicious guards and solitary confinement.

There's a large ensemble cast in "Crown Heights," with familiar character actors as Zach Grenier (as the cop who put Warner behind bars) and Bill Camp (as Warner's best and most dogged lawyer) as standouts. Asomugha (one of the film's producers) and Paul give powerful performances, but the bulk of the praise should go to Stanfeld, who portrays Warner as he grows from a scared teen to a resilient adult.

– Sean P. Means —

Also showing:

"Crown Heights" screens again at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival at the following times and venues:

• Tuesday, Jan. 24, 9 p.m., Sundance Mountain Resort Screening Room

• Wednesday, Jan. 25, noon, Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City

• Friday, Jan. 27, 9 a.m., Eccles Theatre, Park City

• Saturday, Jan. 28, 12:15 p.m., The Grand Theatre, Salt Lake City

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