‘American Crime’ Review: An Honest Look At Justice In America
American Crime, ABC’s new anthology crime drama from the Oscar winning screenwriter of 12 Years A Slave John Ridley, is quite powerful. The series takes a raw look at the complex relationships and intertwining lives of varying individuals. The plot weaves together four seemingly unrelated characters to create a gripping tragedy.
The title itself, American Crime, alludes to the basis of the storyline, but invokes an even greater journey. A man is found murdered, his wife critically injured, in an alleged home invasion by the Modesto, California police, which forces his parents Russell Skokie (Timothy Hutton) and ex-wife, Barb Hanlon (Felicity Huffman), to interact in order to bring justice for their son’s death. However, as the case unfolds more players are revealed, including a blue collar Latino family, a drug addicted couple and a gang member. The players are introduced slowly and sometimes surprisingly as their questionable roles are revealed in the suspected murder plot.
The plot seems very similar to Traffic, in which multiple characters unexpectedly collide into each other’s lives due to an unfortunate event. They are physically separated by miles and socially separated by money and race, but they are now forced to see each other as equals to survive. They share a commonality that is so rarely seen but frequently found – sometimes the people who appear the least familiar are more alike than you can imagine. The drug addict, Carter Nix (Elvis Nolasco), is similar to Skokie who is a recovering gambling addict himself, yet because of their obvious difference in skin color and social status they are treated as opposing characters.
This show uses class and racial inequalities to show the uneven prejudice in the justice system. The alleged “suspects” are two minorities of Hispanic race who come from a difficult background – one, a teenage boy named Tony Gutierrez (Johnny Ortiz), and the other, gang member Hector Tonz (Richard Cabral). Both have the apparent “look” of a criminal. Their innocence is not evident to the “white” investigators who are out to solve the case and are intent on their guilt. Not to mention the suspected murderer is a black male, methamphetamine addict who is up against a system that classifies its cases as “black and white.” They are all assumed guilty and have to prove their innocence to people who can only see their culpability.
In American Crime, Huffman is the one to watch. She delivers a moving performance of a grieving mother who uses her favorable position as a white woman in the narrative to push her contrived agenda. This is a big departure for the actress who was last seen on television playing a caring mother on Desperate Housewives. Huffman’s Barb is smart but shows a large amount of control in her acceptance of the situation. She’s quick to judge and cast blame. And she plays the perfect foil to Hutton’s Russ, who is more emotional and impulsive. They are the epitome of the divorced couple who lack personal interest in each other’s lives, and yet, are inescapably tied for eternity by their children.
This show is meant to show to highlight the intricacies of the American judicial system, which seems to favor certain individuals over others. If you are looking for a suspenseful and but intelligent show while you wait for American Horror Story to return, this is the perfect substitute. American Crime will add another layer of disparity when it challenges religion amongst differing social/racial groups in the upcoming episodes.
American Crime is on ABC Thursdays at 10/9 ET PM.