The Kings of Miami

Critical Thinking

Director: John Leguizamo

Cast: John Leguizamo, Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Corwin C. Tuggles, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Angel Bismark Curiel, Jeffry Batista, Will Hochman

Colombian born actor John Leguizamo has made a name for himself as a character actor in many American films including Regarding Henry and playing Toulouse Lautrec in Baz Luhrmann’s fantastic Moulin Rouge in 2001. American bred, Leguizamo has followed many of his fellow actors into the director’s chair.

In his second directorial attempt, Leguizamo acts and directs in the true story Critical Thinking about a group of impoverished Miami high school boys who manage to win the American National Chess Championships.

Critical Thinking had a positive debut at the following international film festivals in 2020: South by SouthWest, Deauville and Taormina before being released in cinemas.

Critical Thinking’s cinematic release is well timed in the wake of the hugely successful Golden Globe winning Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit and while the film is nowhere near as glamourous it is worth watching. Both this film and The Queen’s Gambit has placed chess back into the cinematic spotlight.

Set mainly in Miami, Gainesville and Fort Myers, Critical Thinking focuses on a group of high school boys: Sedrick Roundtree played by Corwin C. Tuggles; Oelemy Paniagua played by Jorge Lenderberg Jr (Spiderman: Homecoming); Rodelay Medina played by Angel Bismarck Curiel; Marcel Martinez played by Jeffry Batista and Gil Luna played by Will Hochman (Let Him Go) who encouraged by their passionate chess coach Mr Martinez played by John Leguizamo become committed to the game of chess, a game of strategy and manoeuvre with the aim of outwitting your opponent.

In this case all the opponents in these boy’s cases are drugs, violence and poverty. Mr Martinez is keen for these boys to rise above becoming a statistic on the streets of Miami and turns them into becoming chess championships and proving that high school kids from impoverished backgrounds can also achieve distinctions and become the figurative Kings of Miami.

With a screenplay by Dito Montiel (Man Down, The Son of No One), Critical Thinking is an independent film about social development and encouragement focusing on a group of high school boys who could have slipped effortlessly into a life of crime, but overcame that temptation and become chess championships through the encouragement of a mentor and teacher who was passionate about teaching the youngsters some critical and strategic thinking.

Critical Thinking is an enjoyable film about chess, social improvement and taking responsibility, but unfortunately the sound editing is not very good.

As director John Leguizamo’s second attempt at directing it is not bad and there are some expansive exterior shots of Miami, a gritty and humid city in Florida, a far cry from the flashy Miami of the Bad Boys films.

If viewers enjoy low budget independent cinema, then Critical Thinking is worth seeing and gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10. Critical Thinking is showing in cinemas.

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