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Monsters and Men

Oct 7, 2018

A quiet depiction of street tensions between police and young black men.

Monsters and Men

Grade: B

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Screenplay:  Green

Cast: Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (Assassination Nation), John David Washington (The Old Man & the Gun)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 35 min

By: John DeSando

If Monsters and Men were a more incendiary testimony to police brutality, as its title suggests, the audience would be fired up to demonstrate in favor of minorities who have been wronged in “stop-and-frisk” injustices. Fortunately, it’s not more volatile; it is rather a thoughtful, albeit measured, rumination on racism and inequality.

Debut director, Reinaldo Marcus Green, takes a careful look at an event that sounds like the death of Eric Garner in 2014 Staten Island. In Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood, Nuyorican Manny (Anthony Ramos) witnesses an innocent youth murdered by a policeman in an all-too frequent stop of young black men.  Manny spends the first part of the film tortured about the right thing to do with his evidence.

In a second of three segments, black patrol officer Dennis (John David Washington) is conflicted between his loyalty to the force and his understanding of how the system does not favor black men. Although he’s dropped from the rest of the film, he represents the moral quandary about the injustices and the fact that some characters will not follow the usual clichés of these message-type dramas.

The film doesn’t so much as preach, either through voiceover or ponderous character, as it shows the daily indignities of young NYC black men in the white-dominated system that makes justice elusive for him and his peers.

In the final segment of the tryptic, Zyric (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) is a gifted young athlete forced by his conscience to join the protest against brutality and at the same time jeopardize his future to play pro baseball. Like Monsters and Men, Zyric asks you to join him deciding to do the right thing. Not everyone does.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com