Collin (Daveed Diggs) has been on probation for a year, well, just about, a sentence he received after a conviction for a violent assault. He has three days to go and he will finally be able to get on with his life, but he must ensure he stays out of trouble first, so when he is in the back seat of his friend's car and his other pal, Miles (Rafael Casar) produces a handgun, Collin is less than pleased as being in the vicinity of an unlicensed weapon can damn him to a further sentence in prison, for who knows how long? As he has to be back at his lodgings by eleven o'clock curfew, he makes his excuses, but while driving back he stops at the traffic lights - and suddenly becomes a witness to a murder.
Not any old murder, but one where a white cop (Ethan Embry) shoots an unarmed black man in the back as he was running away. Other police arrive hot on their heels and shoo Collin and his removal van away, but the damage has been done, no, he doesn't get into trouble because of this, but being a witness to such a crime he's painfully aware he can do nothing about it as, well, who would believe him, a convicted felon, against the word of Oakland's finest? The damage is psychological, as the reality of the violence in the world he lives in hits home and he is at a loss to do anything about it, as it is bad enough in the eyes of everyone around him that he has a reputation for thuggery.
Now, Diggs did not come across as a particularly violent man, and when we saw the flashback to his crime if you were being generous you would say Collin was acting out of character as he was more believable as the troubled, sensitive soul than part of, say, gang culture or a criminal underclass, no matter that many see him that way, he suspects. Casar was more believable as the ally he has known from childhood but has become a liability with his hair trigger temper, yet the reason this odd couple were hanging out together was no plot convenience, it was down to both performers not only being best mates for twenty years, but also that they wrote the script this was based upon.
They obviously had something they wanted to say and nobody was going to stop them saying it, yet the message was slightly overburdened by their thrill at getting a film made (under the direction of music videos director Carlos López Estrada) and feeling the need to say as much as they could about the issues in the United States that were important to them. Specifically, these issues were led by the themes of race and class, both pressing subjects in the America of 2018 when this was released, and as Oakland's racially diverse makeup give in to gentrification Rafael especially senses the world is moving on without him. Whereas Collin channels those worries internally, his best friend chooses to unleash them on the world around him, where the best fast food restaurant around is prioritising vegan food, or a newly arrived hipster has the same tattoo as he does.
Blindspotting was so rooted in the place the pair grew up that it resembled a home movie in places with its highly focused approach entirely informed by its Oakland setting, but that was not to say Estrada was an amateur. He had a strong visual style that may have contained a gloss, but was also believable as a real location, and the real concern, that violence can tear so much apart, was well conveyed. Rafael is not taking the threat that he is no longer at home in his hometown lying down, and while Collin is more easygoing, there is an incident in the second half which sobers him up as far as society goes. What to do when that society no longer has a use for you, or at least you are being shown the door in more than gentle hinting? Young father Rafael lashes out and becomes part of the problem, but Collin is arguably more in the victim role as he is more likely to, say, be shot by the cops or even his fellow citizens. If this was a shade too self-conscious, and the climactic rap a little clunky, it was well-acted across the board (excellent Janina Gavankar and Jasmine Cephas Jones could have done with more screen time in girlfriend roles) and had a refreshing take on race and crime. Music by Michael Yezerski.
[Lionsgate's DVD is good and colourful, with audio commentaries and featurettes as extras.]