Magazine article Screen International

'Monsters and Men': Sundance Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Monsters and Men': Sundance Review

Article excerpt

The killing of a black man by white cops reverberates through an entire community

Monsters And Men

Dir/scr: Reinaldo Marcus Green. US, 95 min. 2017

The police killing of an unarmed black man-an all-too-familiar occurrence and narrative trope-is the inciting incident of this surprisingly fresh and deft debut feature from shorts filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green (whose Stone Cars played at Cannes 2014 and Stop screened at Sundance 2015). Green fulfills on his promise as an emerging filmmaker-to-watch, delivering a compelling and emotionally honest tripartite narrative about three men in Brooklyn who’ve all been impacted by the violent incident and must make an irrevocable choice.

Monsters and Men breathes enough life into its characters and settings to keep it from feeling heavy-handed

With strong performances, smart directorial choices and an unexpected story structure, Monsters and Men transcends its run-of-the-mill Law & Order-like premise. Nevertheless, it will be a challenge for the film to break out of the social-issue box in which it is set, both in the U.S., where such stories have reached a saturation point, and the international market, where the topic has never been particularly resonant to begin with. Still, worldwide festivals, agents and broadcasters with an eye for new talent should definitely take a look at this solid calling card.

Set in a sun-dappled Bed-Stuy neighborhood (also the setting of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing), the film is split into three parts. The first follows Manny Ortega (Anthony Ramos), a young man with a family and a new job who finds himself an unexpected witness to the murder and records it on his cellphone. Pressured by the cops and his family, who both want him to keep quiet, Manny must decide whether to stay silent or make the video public and take a stand against injustice.

The second part focuses on Dennis (John David Washington, son of Denzel), a black cop who works in the same precinct as the officers who took part in the killing. Similarly conflicted and caught between retaining his comfortable lifestyle or speaking out against corruption, the officer finds himself at a pivotal crossroads.

In the third section, a local high-school student (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) with the talent and aspirations to be a professional baseball player, must also make a crucial decision; to stay focused on his sports dream or participate in the growing protest movement around the killing and make a change in his community. …

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