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Review: Blindspotting (Sundance)

Blindspotting (Sundance)
01.19.2018
7 10

PLOT: After a short stretch in prison, Collin (Daveed Diggs) is put on probation for a year. Flash-forward to eleven months and twenty-seven days later, as he tries to navigate life in his Oakland neighborhood, and the whims of his dangerously unpredictable best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal) while he waits the clock out so he can begin his life anew.

REVIEW: According to the Sundance program notes, co-stars and co-writers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal spent ten years trying to put together enough funding to make BLINDSPOTTING a reality. Helped, no doubt, by Diggs’s new-found stardom in the wake of “Hamilton”, BLINDSPOTTING came to the fest with a fair share of buzz, acquiring an opening night spot at the massive Eccles theater. A heady mix of comedy and drama, this one, which is well-timed and explores the epidemic of blue on black violence, seems sure to get people around Park City talking, and should prove to be a smart pick-up for a niche indie label.

While BLINDSPOTTING doesn’t always work, and is a little uneven considering the short ninety minute running time, overall the subject matter is compelling, even if it takes a while to really take form. For much of the time, I thought this was buddy flick, with Diggs and Casal navigating their Oakland neighborhood before some layers are pulled back and interesting questions start to get asked.

Very much a two-hander, Diggs’s Collin is the more level-headed of the two, always being dragged into trouble by the half-crazed Miles. What makes his position uniquely dangerous is that, while he’s black, Miles is white. Desperately trying to prove himself in his tough neighborhood, Miles dials up the machismo, wearing grills and sporting tats, with a hair-trigger temper that Collin consistently has to pay the price for. If the police come as the result of something Miles does, Collin, being black, is the one they immediately focus their attention on.

An ultra-charismatic actor, BLNDSPOTTING is his best film showcase to date, with him getting to display both a more rugged side then in something like WONDER, but also a lot of charm in his romantic scenes opposite the likable Janina Gavankar as his ex-turned-boss. He even gets to rap a bit, as does Casal, who also impresses. While Miles initially seems one-note, over time we see he’s three-dimensional, with his “street” aspect juxtaposed to his nice-guy family man side, even if his horrible decision making, which involves buying an unlicensed gun off the street, puts them in jeopardy.

A lot of BLINDSPOTTING ties into police violence towards African-Americans, with Collin constantly uneasy when he crosses paths with cops, and him seeing, early on, an unarmed black man shot in the back by a cop (a menacing Ethan Embry). It also tackles gentrification, with escalating land values driving urban gentrification, with the constant influx of hipsters ironically affording the two their living, as they work as movers.

The mix of comedy and drama occasionally falls a little flat, with the drama often working better than the comedy, as do the occasional doses of surrealism via director Carlos Lopez Estrada. Overall though, it’s an effective, entertaining film with something important to say.

Source: JoBlo.com

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