If you have a low threshold for bad decision making, “Emergency” might test your patience. But the film smartly navigates the iffy steps its characters take. Those choices cascade when the best friends and college seniors Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cyler) arrive home to find their front door ajar and a young white woman passed out on the living-room floor. Their housemate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) hasn’t a clue. The dilemma Emma — that’s her name and she’s played by Maddie Nichols — presents upends their plans to become the first Black men to complete the college’s evening-long party circuit known as the “legendary tour.”
Kunle wants to call 911. Sean, who’s been vaping for hours, says no. Carlos could go either way. Sean’s resistance isnt simply the result of the fog of weed. And this is the spiky point of the director Carey Williams and the writer KD Dávila: What happens when what should be a simple call to the police isn’t?
“Emergency” infuses a college comedy with lessons about race and entitlement. In the decision-making department, Emma and her older sister Maddy (Sabrina Carpenter) have some explaining to do — or would, were their sense of privilege not so unquestioned.
Thanks to some good filmmaking decisions, “Emergency” is ripe with tart observations about campus life. It is evocatively shot by Michael Dallatorre, particularly the montage of how Sean imagined the party night unfolding. Still, the best choice comes in casting Cyler and Watkins. The wise slacker and the guileless nerd couldn’t be more different, which makes the testing of their bond as friends, but also as Black men, rich and resonant.
Rated R for pervasive language, a cloud bank of weed smoke and some sexual references. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theaters now, streaming on Amazon May 27.