Credit: <i>Cronies</i>

During the opening credits of Michael Larnell’s surprisingly fresh feature (which he also wrote, produced, and edited), a line of text explains the film’s title: “A close friend or companion.” Sure enough, this film, shot mostly in black and white, is primarily about friendship, though in subtle and mostly unspoken ways Larnell has plenty to say about sociology and racial segregation. In Saint Louis, Andrew (Brian Kowalski), a white, upper-middle-class twentysomething, drives over to the house of his soft-spoken, bespectacled coworker Louis (George Sample III) in a lower-class black neighborhood so that they can meet up and go fishing. Louis’s garrulous, streetwise childhood friend Jack (Zurich Buckner in a standout performance) rudely barges in on their plans, and the movie documents their day together—they smoke weed, shoot dice at an illegal small-stakes gambling operation, and do ecstasy at Andrew’s rich friend’s house—as the trio form an unlikely bond. Spike Lee is the executive producer of this film, and it boasts both a sophisticated understanding of racial politics (as in Do the Right Thing) and a finely attuned ear to the language and behavior of male camaraderie (as in 25th Hour), but it never succumbs to sensationalism and overt moralizing. The soundtrack consists entirely of Saint Louis artists, and documentary-style interviews with the main characters shine light on their motives while slyly commenting on the media’s coverage of race.