Newspapers have had a field day over the years with the madness of cultural appropriation and stories about students banning a Mexican restaurant handing out promotional sombreros in freshers week or Jesy Nelson formerly of Little Mix being vilified for having dreadlocks being allegedly deemed racist by black people (we’ve yet to hear stories of Trevor MacDonald being outraged!). Quite where this all stops is anyone’s guess…… Pizza restaurants only for Italians, Balti Houses only for Pakistanis? At this rate it means that the Brits would be left with Greggs and sausage rolls! Anyway we digress because Emergency is a comedy caper film set against a background of social satire and the perception of racism. It’s that last bit which is set out from the start with the two black students Kanle and Sean sitting in their sociology seminar as their white British female professor starts using the N-word trying to instigate a cack handed debate about its use even going as far as to write the word in huge letters on a whiteboard in front of the students.
The wilfully provocative professor is not the Emergency here. Kanle and Sean are about to embark on a first for black students at their college – attend seven hard to get ticketed parties on the same night and secure their place on the campus Black Wall of Fame. This has all the hallmark of those college comedies that started back with National Lampoon’s Animal House and inevitably it all starts to go awry when they return to their digs only to find an unconscious white girl on the lounge. In his bedroom is their friend Carlos getting high and playing video games wholly oblivious to the girl collapsed in their apartment. Now the obvious thing is to ring police and a medic but as Sean points out what’s it going to look like to police with three black guys standing over an unconscious white girl. Panic sets in and knowing that they just can’t leave her there they pile her into their car to drive her somewhere…..anywhere, that’s safe. It’s easy to see that this idea will soon go awry further exacerbated by the girls sister Maddy (played by Sabrina Carpenter in a seemingly constant state of caterwauling hysteria) and her two friends contributing to the chaos
As is nearly always the case with this type of films there’s perhaps a little too much contrivance with coincidence, and daft decisions playing a major part in the trio’s nightmare. There’s also a reliance on the perception of violent racist cops rather than actual first hand experience which drives their initial decision to drive off with the unconscious girl.
Part buddy movie, part college comedy but all with underlying racial satire as Sean and Kanle start to reassess the differences in their own friendship. The two leads are winningly played by R.J. Cyler as the ‘too cool for school’ Sean and Donald Elise Watkins as the more straight laced academically inclined Kunle who still wants to party but they both share a remarkable scene as the scales fall from both of their eyes in a moment of disillusion and punctured innocence. Though Emergency is something of an updated throwback to those 80’s comedies there’s much to enjoy here.
Here’s the Emergency trailer…….