Most of the ghetto stories of America’s black neighborhood are where young people try and fail to do their best to stay away from a life of crime. Charm City Kings is no exception. It soaks in the blood and sweat of Baltimore’s black community and does not shy away from violence.
The central character is a 14-year-old boy named Mouse, a surge of latent anger and latent rage and boasting by Zahi D’Alo Winston. This young black actor has been quite discovered. Mouse becomes the epitome of the plot, from which we see his world in all its brilliant colors, mostly dark but always paused with laughter.
Mouse and his friends love to revive the streets of Baltimore in fancy mikes, a well-packaged film depicting the adventures of Mouse on wheels, his association with a criminal life played by a good actor named Meek Mill, guided by Blacks. There is hope of redemption. This is not a picture with no light at the end of the tunnel.
On the other end is the other guardian angel of the mouse, a cop (Will Catlett) who wants to take the mouse off the street. All this is familiar territory: strokes of cruelty in the marginalized community and the rough rites of liberation. Throw in a disapproving mother and a pretty supportive girlfriend, and we have a formula film that accepts traditions and rebuilds them through a process of cavalry meditation on crime and its truncation.
The film is inspired by the 12’0 Clock Boys documentary about bikers in Baltimore. It is powerful and thoughtful and able to capture the path of a young leader to a socially acceptable life. It leads with real life, where we all know happy endings are mainstream people, not fringe players.
I go with 3 stars.