The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain

Written by Alexander Reams


“Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed”

Will Smith

In recent years there has seemed to be an uptick in racially motivated killings. Many of which are highly publicized in the media. In 2020 that bubble seemed to reach its maximum capacity in the social zeitgeist. These murders are a continuation in showing systemic racism that is present in modern America. Such are the themes at play in David Midell’s The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain. The eponymous character, Kenneth Chamberlain, is an elderly man, a war veteran, and now a loner. He resides by himself in his apartment in White Plains, New York, his only company being his Life Aid call box.  One night he accidentally triggers the call box and the dispatcher sends emergency services to his apartment, instead of EMTs or Firefighters, the police that are sent. From our introduction to the three police officers, it’s clear that something is not right about the two of them. This is where the tension begins to rise, and it slowly, very slowly continues to rise.

Midell shows he clearly has a talent for tension-building scenes and it’s elevated even more by Frankie Faison, a veteran actor who has been involved in many famous TV shows and film series. He encapsulates Chamberlain’s fear and confusion brilliantly. His heartbreaking performance is easily the best part of the film. However, he is surrounded by other performers who are not up to par with him. The three police officers (Enrico Natale as Officer Ross, Steve O’Connell as Sergeant Park, and Ben Marten as Officer Jackson) are mostly one-note characters. They are only portrayed as villains which seems inspired by contemporary hyperpartisanship. Behind the camera is driving on all full cylinders, DP Camrin Petramale crafted terrifying shots that have not left my head, Editor Enrico Natale did a brilliant job, particularly in the first encounter of Chamberlain and the three officers. While Faison gives a truly world-class performance, and the technical aspects are brilliant, I only wish he’d been surrounded by better performers.

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain Trailer

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain is streaming on HBO Max.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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