Basically: Two Black best friends and their Latino roommate go into crisis mode when they find a mysteriously unconscious white girl in their house…
Director Carey Williams and writer KD Dávila are trying to make you skressed. See, they want you to be more than stressed when watching their new film Emergency. They want you on another level of stress even as you’re laughing, from genuine chuckles to anxious laughter to no more laughing. They have made something that is quite rare: A comedic thriller. Emergency is gonna have you feeling a certain type of way, especially if you are a person of color.
The story begins with Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cyler), two young men at the end of their undergraduate years at a PWI (Predominantly White Institution), talking about their near future. Kunle is the more straight-laced square of the two. This first-generation immigrant kid is still being bothered by his mother to become a medical doctor instead of a scientific one. Sean is the light-hearted one, think Smokey from Friday but he’s actually doing something with his life. Sean wants Kunle to join him on a tour of parties called the Legendary Tour. But Kunle needs to finish one of his finals involving bacteria culture, so he tells Sean to invite their roommate Carlos instead. Sean is not about bringing Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) because he’s a geek.
When Kunle heads home with Sean, he doesn’t make sure everything is secured for the experiment, so he plans to return to the lab. However, when they get back to their house, the front door is open and a blonde white girl (Maddie Nichols) is collapsed on their living room floor. After getting Carlos out of his room, all three are confused. In a setup like a dangerous version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the three guys, who are all minorities, try to figure out what to do. After making sure she’s alive, Sean convinces Kunle not to call 911 because the outcome could lead to their deaths. So the group goes on a fantastic adventure to get this white girl to a hospital without attracting the police.
As I said before, Emergency starts with you “Ha Ha”-ing but soon gets to a point where you’re on the edge of your seat or standing up in front of your TV worried about what will happen. RJ Cyler, who I think most know from The Harder They Fall on Netflix, is beyond charismatic on-screen. He’s extra when he needs to be and a comedic voice of reason to Donald Elise Watkins’ do-gooder Kunle. While the things Kunle is saying make sense logically, they don’t make real sense.
The movie doesn’t hit you over the head with any backstory; you can just tell Kunle has the same two-parent household and working-middle-class upbringing that’s not unfamiliar for Black American kids with immigrant parents. This compares to Sean’s slightly tougher upbringing, he has more street smarts and has had more interactions with the state.
The geeky Carlos becomes an excellent balance between them. As a Mexican American guy, he also worries about their discovery since it wouldn’t be good for him if the police were involved either. The film adds to this threat by introducing Sabrina Carpenter’s Maddie. She is looking for her sister who she lost at a fraternity party, who we find out is the drunk unconscious white girl. Maddie is joined in her search by her friend Alice (Madison Thompson) and a guy Alice met named Rafael (Diego Abraham). Maddie thinks Kunle, Sean, and Carlos are doing something terrible even though she’s not sober either. She’s constantly on the phone with 911 while tracking them through her sister’s phone, unbeknownst to the three guys.
These actors fold into their roles. Everything feels so natural and each response and action feels authentic. The film manipulates you well as you sometimes question their choices, and at other times, because of the way the world is, you understand. They don’t always agree and when things start to come together, woo wee, it’s a nail-biter. Emergency is such a great mix of comedy and suspense/thriller. But, while it’s good, part of me wishes it wasn’t so authentic in its outlook.
In the End: Emergency will probably be the best movie to come out on May 20 with its excellent use of deft humor and well-built use of thrills and danger. Fire performances, great writing, and great directing.