Review: Poetry slams racial tensions in 'Blindspotting'

Poetic verse collides with big picture topics in this stirring Oakland, California tale

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
Daveed Diggs (left) and Rafael Casal (right) in "Blindspotting."

Racial tension, gentrification and police brutality are all on the front burner in "Blindspotting," a searing, extremely topical comedic drama you can't pull your eyes away from. 

Daveed Diggs, a Tony winner for "Hamilton," teams up with his partner-in-rhyme Rafael Casal to tell this story about modern day America, centralized in their hometown of Oakland, California.

Their story (Diggs and Casal wrote the screenplay) unfolds in Oakland but is relatable to any metropolis with a shifting racial dynamic where old neighborhood spots are being turned into Whole Foods Markets. (Sound familiar?) 

Diggs is Collin, who is in the final days of his probation from a felony conviction, and Casal is Miles, his childhood friend whose short fuse and embrace of the street lifestyle threaten to land them both in hot water.

When Collin witnesses a cop (Ethan Embry) gun down a black civilian in the streets, the incident claws at his conscience. It's one more thing on his mind in this ambitious, complex tale which asks a lot of hard questions and doesn't pretend to have all the answers. But at least it's starting the conversation. 

"Blindspotting" is directed with fervor by first-timer Carlos López Estrada, who brings its simmering tensions to a boil without letting the pot overflow. 

Diggs and Casal were both reared in the world of slam poetry, which is brought to the surface in a gripping climactic scene. Everybody listens more when you make it sound pretty, one of the film's characters says, and it's a philosophy Diggs and Casal hold dear. It's an ugly, complicated, difficult and trying world, but "Blindspotting" makes it sound pretty.

(313) 222-2284





Rated R for language throughout, some brutal violence, sexual references and drug use

Running time: 95 minutes