Monsters and Men
Monsters and Men is an ambitious feature which explores the problem of gun violence towards people of colour in the USA. While some aspects are extremely successful – especially the three lead actors, who are absolutely superb throughout – overall, the film just feels rather flat.
Of course, exploring such a controversial topic is never easy. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green could easily have offended some more sensitive individuals, so it’s good that he walked softly while writing the script. It was certainly a wise decision to make the movie character rather than plot-driven – thus avoiding too many obvious and one-sided political statements. Unfortunately, the filmmaker decided to split the runtime into three separate stories which are linked loosely by the focal point of the killing of an innocent black man and its aftermath.
Character studies take time to develop, and here we have three separate examples, roughly half an hour each. Each of them deserves its own feature-length film, rather than being cramped together in this fashion. As such, the arrest of Manny (Anthony Ramos), who films the shooting, ends at the beginning of his interrogation with no further exploration of how his wife and child react or what impact it has on him. Black officer Dennis (John David Washington) is caught in an internal conflict between the law and his emotions for his own community, but this, too, never really evolves. Finally, Zyric (Kelvin Harrison Jr), a baseball wunderkind, becomes a revolutionary when he is randomly searched by the police after training.
So here are three interesting and unique characters thrown into unusual situations, but with too little time to let them come into full bloom. Indeed, at times it feels as though nothing happens. This is an extremely slow-moving drama, which would be fine if it was building towards something. But there is no climax, no pay-off; it just ends. What a waste of potential – both in terms of subject matter and excellent casting.
Nevertheless, there are saving graces which make Monsters and Men worth a watch. The weight and importance of the injustices portrayed are highlighted succinctly, making the picture suitable for those interested in further exploring these pertinent issues. Also, the shots themselves and the beautiful score by Kris Bowers capture the mood and offer the movie occasional moments of aesthetic pleasure. These aspects may not make the film better than mediocre, but they do save it from being a complete catastrophe.
Monsters and Men is released nationwide on 18th January 2019.
Watch the trailer for Monsters and Men here: