"Monsters and Men" is a story ripped from the headlines. Written and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, the film shows how a police shooting affects a Brooklyn community in general and three locals specifically. The audience is along for the ride and encouraged to join the discussion.
Writer/director Reinaldo Marcus Green was inspired to create "Monsters and Men" after he and a very good friend, who is a cop, viewed video of the Eric Garner shooting and interpreted two completely different scenarios. Using the premise of how a video of a cop- shooting impacts an entire neighborhood. This powerfully, relevant film explores the all-to-often occurrence from both sides.
The opening scene is completely innocent yet it sets the tone and begins the tension-building present throughout the film.
Picture a handsome, young, black man driving down a quiet street one morning, singing along with some Al Green soul on the radio, when lights flash and a siren sounds. He pulls over and nervously glances in the rear view before the white officer approaches his window. He reaches for his wallet, lays it open on his thigh and tugs his shirt down over the handgun at his waist. The audience is on notice something tragic could happen at any second.
The open wallet reveals the badge of an undercover cop. He's allowed to go on his way, but the nerve-wracking discomfort of impending tragedy sticks with you the entire film.
34-year-old former NFL running back, John David Washington, son of Denzel, plays that undercover cop, who gives us a bird's eye view of both sides of the unfolding story.
Other strong cast members include:
Kevin Harrison, Jr, an up-and-coming actor, who plays Zyric, a promising high school athlete with a bright future ahead of him. After experiencing a harassing “stop and frisk” for no reason. He's inspired to leave the relative safety of the sports field to take on an activist role in the streets.
Anthony Ramos, an original cast member of the musical, Hamilton, who plays Manny, a young Hispanic father, trying to keep his nose clean and provide for his family but who, with cellphone in hand, records the shooting-by-cop of a well-liked and unarmed neighborhood hustler.
As we're introduced to each of these characters, we learn their back stories, their issues, motivations and conflicts. The script succeeds in creating empathy for all three and the director's hope is for audiences to keep an open mind, listen to each of the stories and consider all sides. In the director's words,“We need to have more talk, more understanding, so we get to a place of change and stop the killing.”
"Monsters and Men" is rated R and runs 1 hour and 38 tension-filled minutes. It's release date is today, September 28. This is Barbara Bretz with your Friday Film Review sponsored