VOD film review: The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain
James R | On 15, May 2022
Director: David Midell
Cast: Frankie Faison, Enrico Natale, Ben Marten, Steve O’Connell
The title might sound like a spoiler unwittingly sapping the film of any tension, but The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, named after a real life case from 2011, has the opposite effect. The retelling of the incident begins with an uncomfortable sense of portent looming over it, and a harrowing pre-knowledge of inevitability.
Frankie Faison stars as Kenneth, a 68-year-old African-American who used to be a marine. Now, he lives alone and struggles with both a heart condition and bipolar disorder. But when he accidentally sets off his health monitor alarm one night, the police visit to determine the cause of the alarm, and what ensues is a cruel, fatal and unjust encounter.
Writer-director David Midell roots his account of proceedings in the audio recordings and forensic reports of Kenneth’s death, and rather than attempt to embellish details or fictionalise moments for drama, he understands the impact of simply sticking to the information he’s managed to assemble. He drip-feeds every slowly escalating step without sensationalising or hurrying, to the point where it feels like everything is unfolding in claustrophobic real-time. At the heart of it all is a remarkable performance from Faison in the role of a lost, scared and innocent man. His delivers an understated, passionate and heartfelt turn that’s heart-wrenching in its vulnerability and haunting in its strength and frequent lucidity.
In a small ensemble, editor Enrico Natale stands out as a more considerate police officer, who clashes with the brash, bigoted cop played by Steve O’Connell. Their disagreement is one of many moments that leave you wondering “what if”, even as we move inexorably towards the title that spells out the senseless, avoidable death that is still tragically timely more than 10 years on.