Film FestivalsMovie ReviewsSundance 2020: Charm City Kings Review

Keith NoakesFebruary 7, 202096/100
Starring
Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Meek Mill. William Catlett
Writer
Sherman Payne
Director
Angel Manuel Soto
Rating
R (United States)
Running Time
125 minutes
Release Date
April 10th, 2020
Overall Score
Rating Summary
Charm City Kings is a compelling and raw part coming-of-age, part redemption story and a love letter to the city of Baltimore.

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

Representation is important, disenfranchised groups are also deserving of coming-of-age and redemption stories though it easy to forget who were viewing while watching Charm City Kings. Based on the documentary 12 O’Clock Boys, this film is an unforgettable African-American journey and a love letter to the city of Baltimore that reminds us that there is much more to that city than just The Wire. It is an immersive experience imbued with plenty of style and emotion as well as a killer soundtrack, exploring the city’s dirt bike culture. While adapting a documentary is tricky, the finished product is a compelling coming-of-age and redemption story that will surely resonate with most viewers. While the subject matter certainly won’t be for everyone, the film is well worth a shot.

Charm City Kings follows a 14-year-old named Mouse (Winston) whose dream was to follow his beloved deceased big brother Stro’s footsteps and join the city’s Midnight Clique, a famous gang of dirt-bike riders who ruled the summertime streets where he was a prominent member. Both Mouse and Stro were very close so joining the gang would be his way to keep his memory alive. However, this would be easier said than done as he was still a kid after all. Mouse had his own gang, his best friends Lamont (Donielle Tremaine Hansley) and Sweartagawd (Kezii Curtis), who he would hang out with all the time, getting on each other’s cases and dreaming to one day make it out of their neighborhood. Meanwhile, Mouse had a support system but reigning him in and keeping him on the right track (pun intended) would prove difficult once he fell under the spell of Midnight Clique’s leader, Blax (Mill) who took the boy under his wing, leading him onto a dark path mirroring that of his brother.

In the end, the best part of Charm City Kings and what makes all of it work was its performances with Winston and Mill as Mouse and Blax being the clear standouts. Focusing on Mouse, we spend so much time with him that it is easy to care about the character and that was because of Winston. His excellent performance as the naive, impulsive, and impressionable Mouse was likable, dynamic, and relatable. Not only does he carry the film, he was fun to watch. Meanwhile, in his first big acting role, Mill was impressive delivering a layered performance of a patriarch imposing enough to be the leader of a gang but also one that’s clearly been through some stuff. The great chemistry between Winston and Mill ties it all together.

At the end of the day, Charm City Kings is a roller-coaster that should not be missed.

*still courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics*


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