Monsters and Men

Written and directed by critically acclaimed short film filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green in his first feature film, Monsters and Men is an emotionally provocative independent drama filled with raw acting performances about a particularly timely subject matter. The movie is split into three different parts following three different characters who are all impacted by the shooting of a black man at the hands of a white police officer on a street corner in the working class Brooklyn neighborhood Bed-Stuy. We first meet the struggling young Latino father and husband Manny, played by Anthony Ramos best known for his role in the hit Broadway show Hamilton, who just recently got a job as a security guard in Manhattan. His life is turned upside down one day after he videotapes a fatal encounter between a NYPD white officer and a non-violent small-time black criminal named Darius Larson who is shot by the police officer in a confrontation over Darius selling illegal cigarettes, very similar to the 2014 shooting of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Manny struggles with whether he should publicize the video recording in order to shed light on police brutality but feels that its release will cause irreparable damage to his life and family. To provide a balanced perspective on recent police shootings of black men in the United States, the second chapter of the film revolves around the idealistic African American police officer Dennis, played by John David Washington best known for his breakout role in this year’s BlacKkKlansman, who tries to cope with the fact that a police officer in his precinct is the cop responsible for the death of a black man like himself. He feels constant pressure from the African American community that appears to resent him as a police officer tangentially associated with the killing. At the same time, Dennis experiences uncomfortable tension from his fellow police officers who feel a duty to protect the now suspended cop as one of their own even if his fatal action may not be legally justified. As he does with the rest of the movie, the filmmaker effectively navigates the challenges facing the final character Zyrick, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. best known for his role in the critically acclaimed 2017 horror film It Comes at Night. He is a star high school baseball player with the potential of making it professionally, but, in the aftermath of the shooting, he becomes more aware of his identity as a young black man who could be the next victim of police brutality. With the urging of a young female activist also in high school, he decides to risk his athletic career to become a vocal activist protesting the killing of Darius. What makes the film so powerful is the filmmaker’s ability to expertly explore a very complex issue facing today’s society by presenting how police brutality affects the witnesses, fellow police officers, and other potential victims and activists. Overall, I found it to be a most important and brilliantly crafted movie about one of the greatest hot-button issues of contemporary America, all the while approaching such a contentious subject with profound nuance and subtlety.

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