Combustible Celluloid
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With: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Ethan Embry, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Rolanda D. Bell, Casey Adams, John K. Moeslein, Lance Holloway, Justin Chu Cary, George Watsky, Kendra Andrews, Sara Kay
Written by: Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs
Directed by: Carlos López Estrada
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some brutal violence, sexual references and drug use
Running Time: 95
Date: 07/20/2018

Blindspotting (2018)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Oakland Braiders

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This indie comedy-drama could have been another hard-knock urban story, but it is instead funny and insightful, with heartfelt characters, and astute enough to see many sides of the issues at hand.

In Blindspotting, Oakland resident Collin (Daveed Diggs) is a convicted felon out on parole, with only three days left until his freedom. He is determined not to get into trouble. Unfortunately, his temperamental best friend Miles (Rafael Casal) has suddenly decided to buy a gun, and then, on the way home, while waiting at a long stoplight, Collin witnesses a white cop shooting an unarmed black man in the street.

Over the next few days, Collin is haunted by the incident, but continues to work with Miles at a local moving company, where Collin's ex-girlfriend Val (Janina Gavankar) is a dispatcher. Collin, Miles, and Miles's wife Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones) bitterly discuss the gentrification of their city, and later Miles and Collin go to a party hosted by hipster whites, where Miles gets into a violent fight. But when Miles's son gets ahold of his gun, it sends everything into a tailspin.

Co-written by its two stars, Blindspotting is constantly surprising, using its plot mechanisms — the shooting, the introduction of the gun, and even the box of curling irons — to open up further discussion, rather than trudging wearily down old familiar paths toward violence or conflict. Destruction, or self-destruction is not the only or the inevitable ending here; things are discussed and reasoned.

Directed by Carlos López Estrada in his feature debut, Blindspotting is also very funny for a long time, though, like so many comedies, the laughs tend to dry out as the story threads are wrapped up. But it's so good for so long that it's easily forgiven.

Diggs, a Tony-winner for Hamilton, has a warm screen presence, even though his character is somewhat passive, given his parole-related storyline. Casal is the surprise, turning an explosive, troublemaking character into a genuinely thoughtful one. As with Sorry to Bother You (and Black Panther), the city of Oakland is used as a fascinating locale, full of personality and inner conflict. Overall, this is a bracing achievement, a movie worth seeking out.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray release features a strong picture and excellent Dolby Atmos sound. There's a 26-minute making-of featurette and a 17-minute "director's diary," as well as some deleted scenes and trailers at startup. It also includes a digital copy and a bonus DVD.

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