November 19th, 2021
MOVIE: THE KILLING OF KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN
STARRING: FRANKIE FAISON, STEVE O’CONNELL, ENRICO NATALE, BEN MARTEN
DIRECTED BY: DAVID MIDELL
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
It often seems to me that pride is the leading cause of a lot of our problems. There are other reasons why people do the things they do, but I wish we could all just stop what we’re doing. The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain is a true story. It’s not good that it’s a true story. A story like this should not be someone’s reality, it should be a “what if” scenario, or an example to police officers on how not to handle a situation. Above all, it’s a story that shines a light on how much we have failed American people, both for veterans that have not received the right treatment for mental health problems, and how police officers have failed in the trust needed for them to be respected in life. The issues are in the title, this is a movie about the wrongful killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, a 70-year old man that was brutally harassed by police after refusing their assistance, wrongfully had his house entered, and killed in the process. It’s utterly heartbreaking and all too much a reality for Black people living in America in the past, present, and likely future.
The title role is played by character actor Frankie Faison. The veteran made a name for himself with The Silence of the Lambs films, the only actor to be a part of every film in the Thomas Harris series, but he’s much more than just minor roles, which he evidently puts on display here. It was around 5:30 in the morning on November 19th, 2011 when Kenneth removed his medical monitor, which triggered his medical alert responder. Deep in his sleep and not responding, dispatch was automatically called, sending a wellness check to his home. The alert was all an accident, an accident of how those medical alerts operate, when the police officers arrived, Kenneth was shocked, and let them know that it was all a mistake. For the police officers, their protocol was that they had to visually see Kenneth. Why they keep pressing I won’t understand. If they just listened to him and went away Kenneth might still be alive.
Written and directed by David Midell, it’s obvious that this is a more independent production, but the director does an excellent job of creating the tension of the situation. Specifically keeping the camera swirling in between the characters. The frustration from the three police officers that arrive- Sergeant Parks (Steve O’Connell), Officer Jackson (Ben Marten), and rookie Officer Rossi (Enrico Natale)- grows with each time Kenneth tells them to leave. It’s not a mystery that Kenneth had his own issues, a 70-year old veteran of the Vietnam war, a heart condition, and dealing with his own PTSD. You add on top of that a history of Black Americans not trusting police in the first place, it’s not hard to understand why he would want them to leave him alone. As each moment escalates, with the police violently banging on the door, calling in a tactical squad to break down the door, and calling Kenneth offensive words, each step leaves us asking why it could not have stopped. Why does it keep going one step ahead? Why does the pride of men take over?
There’s so much more to be said about the performance from Faison. His work here is incredibly natural, an exercise in just living the character, becoming who this man was, and never delivering a false word. In between the shouting are phone calls with Kenneth’s relatives asking him what’s going on or conversations with the operators with his medical monitor. Each moment shows an excellent balance between high intensity and gentle conversations of care. It’s an actors showcase, where Faison proves he’s understanding of every assignment he takes on.
At the core of The Murder of Kenneth Chamberlain we see the human that Kenneth Chamberlain was, a father, a war hero, and disregarded by the country he served for. Midell shows to us the facts and where the narrative has flaws are the added bits of music or melodramatic lines that make it look over-directed. The best parts are when Midell just lets the reality play out, which looks like a fly-on-the-wall documentation of exactly what happened to this man. Kenneth Chamberlain would still be alive if everyone would have just left him alone. It was the ugly pride, the ugly anger, and racism of men that led to the death of Kenneth Chamberlain. Life shouldn’t be this way.
THE KILLING OF KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND FRIDAY NOVEMBER 19TH, 2021
WRITTEN BY: Leo Brady