Monsters and Men is the feature debut of writer/director Reinaldo Marcus Green. It details the aftermath of the police shooting of a black man, told from three perspectives: a bystander who filmed the act, an African-American police officer caught up in the investigation, and a young athlete who decides to take a stand. The film debuted at the Sundance 2018 Film Festival to positive reviews.
The narrative structure of the film is quite interesting and involved. It is almost an anthology film, but not quite, as the connections between the different storylines are clear and smooth. This makes the film stand out from others with a similar framing device. The overall message of the film seems to be that everyone is affected by this pertinent issue in the country, whether directly or indirectly, and that is why it so urgently needs to be solved. Unfortunately, although this structure is interesting, it also lessens some of the impact of certain aspects of the film. Namely, the third act of the film is the weakest. It is the shortest, therefore the audience has less time to form a connection to the character, and it is seemingly the least relevant. That is not to say that it is irrelevant, but when the first and second act deal with the issue of police brutality with a much more direct approach, the story of an activist simply did not have quite as much impact. That being said, there is one scene in that segment that stood out and was rather shocking. On the other hand, the first two acts are completely absorbing. The characters are highly sympathetic and their stories are thoroughly resonant. That being said, an overall flaw of the film is that is simply presents the issue, not offering any solution. The film's story stops at showing the horrors of police brutality, and while that does provide a great conversation starter, it is unlikely to turn any heads or change any minds in the greater scheme.
The film's execution is quite strong. There were some great visuals in the film, with a lot of images being used for symbolic purposes to develop the message. The filmmaker also appeared to have a strong grasp on the use of tone. The opening scenes of the film do a fine job of introducing the thematic center of the film. There is a particularly impactful scene in the beginning featuring John David Washington's character that immediately establishes what the film is, what it intends to say, and where it is going. The cast is extremely talented, comprised mostly of little-known actors. Perhaps the biggest name in the film was John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman), who gives another strong turn as a police officer facing internal and external conflicts. Anthony Ramos, who portrays the lead in the first act, is also a standout. Out of the three leads, his performance feels the most realistic and emotionally-driven.
Overall, Monsters and Men is a very strong film with a very strong message. Although it just barely misses the mark on being a game-changer, it is nonetheless very timely and handles a subject which is too often ignored.
Monsters and Men is now playing in select cities and opens in more cities October 5.
Monsters and Men
Big Tuna's Rating: B+
How Did I Watch It?: A press screener.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Yes.
My new reviews are being posted on POPAXIOM (popaxiom.com)!
I look at films as if through old red and blue 3D glasses— one lens is as art, one lens is as entertainment.
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