‘Emergency’ Might Be Satire, But Certainly Isn’t Comedy: Review

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Emergency (2022)

A naive black college student makes one bad decision after another about a white girl he finds passed out on his living-room floor.  

★★★✰✰

Emergency is a film about three college friends, whose plans of going on a legendary tour visiting all seven campus frat parties in a single night are dangerously interrupted by the discovery of a white high-school girl, lying unconscious on their living-room floor. Kunle’s (Donald Elise Watkins) knee-jerk reaction is to call 911, but he is persuaded not to by housemates Sean (RJ Cyler) and Carlos (Sebastian Chacon). Sean is especially fearful that they may be arrested, or worse, shot dead before they have a chance to tell their side of the story. Kunle and his friends take viewers on a journey of terrible twists and turns that come as a result of this decision. 

The film is great at setting the scene for what kind of night the young men were supposed to have, keeping viewers hooked as the plan goes out the window. Audiences are invited into Sean’s imagination—he is the mastermind behind the frat party tour. The use of fluorescent body paint and light tubes, imagined beer pong and questionable costumes were used to separate the different party stops, keeping interest directly in each scene. Dangling such a memorable college night within reach before ripping it away is a smart way of keeping viewers interested and committed to watching the film to the end.

There are several funny moments that must be given the credit they deserve. When Kunle tries to use statistics to persuade his friends that they won’t be in hot water if they call for help: “Think about it statistically, how many people actually get shot by the cops? It’s really really unlikely right?” Admittedly the film is satirical and does provoke laughter, but there isn’t enough comedy in it for it to sit confidently and proudly in the comedy genre. Films such as Four Lions, The Dictator and even Django Unchained could be considered as more humorous, despite not being considered as outright comedies. Each explore serious and dark subjects including terroroism, serious women’s rights violations, slavery, and still manage to keep viewers laughing fairly consistetly throughout. Unfortunately, Emergency could not achieve this. 

Aside from the disappointment on the comedy front, the acting of the trio in particular is very unified, giving as much energy as they receive from each other. They play their distinctive roles within the friendship well and really made their college life believable, and perhaps recognisable to those who have had a similar real-life experience. Differences in opinion about law enforcement based on experience and race, were used in the friendship to depict the real world, the world in which George Floyd and many like him have departed from. Kunle is very sure of the fair and balanced response he believes he will get from the police, until a sad turn towards the end. From the start, Sean is on edge and ready to leave his friends behind if things go south. In a bid not to spoil the film, it has to be watched to find out which instincts are correct.   

The Verdict

Emergency holds viewers’ attention because of the subject matter, such as racial injustices, profiling and stereotyping. But it is far from an original concept and nowhere near funny enough to be considered a comedy, and should possibly be considered as a drama first and foremost. It is not a film to be watched more than once, but the important themes it highlights are respected. 

Words By Solape Alatise 


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