Playing like a buddy comedy, it splices humor and heart with raw looks at race, class, police brutality, toxic masculinity and identity. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
All Collin (original “Hamilton” cast member Daveed Diggs) wants is to make it through the next three days and finish his parole without going back to prison. Two key things complicate this feat: his rowdy, short-tempered, chip-on-his-shoulder lifelong bestie Miles (spoken-word performer Rafael Casal), and witnessing a white police officer shoot an unarmed black man in the back. Like Collin’s situation, “Blindspotting” is anything but simple.
Real-life pals Diggs and Casal wrote the script and mined their experiences growing up in Oakland. Playing like a buddy comedy, it splices humor and heart with raw, intense looks at race, class, police brutality, toxic masculinity and identity as the friends navigate the rapid gentrification of the Bay Area. This tension between light and heavy drives everything around it.
It’s easy to tell the leads are friends, and an earnest, easy chemistry sells their onscreen bond. Despite the constant trouble and Miles’ every reckless move — buying a gun, starting fights at a party — threatening Collin’s freedom and chances of rekindling his romance with Val (Janina Gavankar), a lifetime of loyalty is tough to shake. Diggs embodies this duality and their relationship parallels their connection to their hometown — things change and evolve, not always for the better, but it’s home.
Bouts of free-form hip-hop pepper the script as the central duo meander, directionless, through the streets. Director Carlos Lopez Estrada injects visual flourishes and off-kilter stylistic touches to augment and escalate the thematic concerns and give the film a fresh feel.
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At times messy and uneven, “Blindspotting” never offers easy solutions or platitudes. More than an answer key, it provides an urgent, tangible explosion of frustration and rage too long pushed down and suppressed. Intimate personal struggles drive home and ground the broader concerns in a much more accessible way than if this were a more overt political screed. Both inviting and confrontational, “Blindspotting” shakes viewers in their seats and announces Diggs as a star-in-the-making leading man.
★★★½ “Blindspotting,” with Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar. Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, from a screenplay by Diggs and Casal. 95 minutes. Rated R for language throughout, some brutal violence, sexual references, and drug use. Opens July 27 at multiple theaters.