Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Anthony Ramos (PATTI CAKE$ , and upcoming films A STAR IS BORN  and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS ), John David Washington (THE OLD MAN & THE GUN  and BLACKKKLANSMAN ), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (ASSASSINATION NATION , IT COMES AT NIGHT , BIRTH OF A NATION , and upcoming films JEREMIAH TERMINATOR LEROY  and LUCE ), and Chanté Adams (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), and Rob Morgan (STRANGER THINGS [2016 – ongoing], and upcoming films GREYHOUND  and FAIR MARKET VALUE )
Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Reinaldo Marcus Green, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Composing the score is Kris Bowers, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming GREEN BOOK (2018). The cinematographer is Patrick Scola, known for SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU (2016). Finally, the co-editors are Justin Chan (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of) and Scott Cummings (BEACH RATS , and the upcoming DONNYBROOK ).
This is my honest opinion of: MONSTERS AND MEN
Three sets of stories revolving around the unjust death of a black man named Darius Larson (Samel Edwards) at the hands of brutal police officers: Manny (Anthony Ramos), who filmed the incident and refused to keep quiet about the incident, Officer Dennis (John David Washington), who is trying to convince those around him that not all officers are to blame to the actions of those that are corrupt, and Zyric (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who finds purpose in protesting these transgressions.
Wow, this movie is a mess. I respect it. It has a very admirable message to it, but it’s not delivered in a very coherent way.
Let’s start with Manny’s story. This is actually a pretty good bit. He’s a young dude living in the ass end of a bad neighborhood who is about to get a nice new well-paying job to take care of his girlfriend and daughter. He films the murder, the cops in question threaten him to keep that footage to himself, he eventually refuses, and uploads the footage to the internet. Manny gets arrested to bullshit reasons and put in jail. This set up is actually quite good. He has a real dilemma. Let the machine keep turning, as crappy as it is, so he can take care of his family, or get himself involved in something that affects minorities all across the country and stand up to injustice. It takes time to show that he loves his family, albeit in a boring-ish kind of way, but it’s done fairly well. My only real issue is that Manny is never heard from again and the future protesting isn’t about him in addition to Darius Larson. One would think the man who filmed that bullshit would be equally important to the cause than just the man who died. Both are victims of abuse of power.
The rest of the film plays out exactly the way that I described in my summary, but here’s why the movie is messy to me. Once Manny’s story concludes, he’s never seen again. Dennis is technically the first character to be introduced, giving the impression that he’s going to the main character. He’s the main character of his section of the story, but once that concludes, we never see him again either. And the movie concludes on Zyric’s story, who is a completely new character never introduced until it’s basically his turn. The movie opens on Dennis as a prelude of sorts, then it’s Manny’s story, then it segues into Dennis’. But Zyric’s comes out of nowhere. There are two primary issues I have. The first is that as soon as Dennis’ story starts, the movie’s ability to properly argue both sides ends up being pretty elementary. Like, maybe not all cops are going to abuse their power, but they all have to be a part of the solution? Really? And ultimately, this movie’s solution to this sort of injustice is to drop everything that’s important in your life to protest? That’s it? This feels like too easy a solution. The second problem is that, on a narrative standpoint, there’s no real reason to have the movie switch perspectives in characters. This could have easily done away with Zyric’s character, write out that Manny gets arrested, and he’s the one who decides to protest. Zyric himself is pointless. It doesn’t help that the movie doesn’t even really end. It just stops. Not that I’m complaining in the long run.
Overall, this movie… has something to say, and I can respect that it says it with conviction, but it’s not saying it in a way that feels well thought out. More like whoever made this made it actually witnessed this happen, wrote the script in a huff, and the first draft was all they used. It’s admirable, but it’s heavily flawed. With a little more focus, or even separating these stories into their own movies would have saved a lot of face. You can’t fault a movie for pointing out relevant issues that our country is facing, but I can fault a movie for having a poor narrative. As a recommendation… eh, it’s a pass, but if you must see it, save it for a rental. There’s better movies out there that tackle this subject matter.
My honest rating for MONSTERS AND MEN: a weak 3/5
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