"Good Character and Christian Family Values Triumph"
What You Need To Know:
MONSTER is a powerful drama that avoids the typical politically correct content in other similar movies from Hollywood. Also, it has a strong Christian, moral, pro-family worldview with positive references to God and the Bible. Happily, it has no depicted lewd content and presents the murder as tastefully as possible while at the same time conveying its horror. However, MONSTER contains many strong obscenities and some strong profanities. There’s also some teenage alcohol use and marijuana smoking at a party. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
MONSTER is a thoughtful, moving portrait of a black teenage boy accused of being an accomplice to murder as he navigates keeping his sanity in jail and clearing his name in the courtroom. MONSTER is a powerful drama with a strong Christian, moral pro-family worldview with positive references to God and Bible passages, but it has lots of strong foul language and a teenage party featuring brief underage drinking and marijuana smoking, so extreme caution is advised.
Steve (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a high school junior with dreams of being a filmmaker. A smart bookworm, he also wanders his working-class neighborhood looking for unusual angles to film for his student projects. One day, he’s approached by a slightly older street thug named King (Rakim Meyers). King tempts Steve by telling him he’ll show Steve the “street life” that can make his student films more compelling.
Steve keeps hanging around King, until one day when King and another thug named Bobo (John David Washington) kill a shop owner during a robbery. Steve is arrested for being the lookout prior to the robbery who signaled the killers to go inside. His arrest puts Steve’s entire future at risk, including a precarious day to day existence behind bars during his trial.
Can this bookish young man survive the horrors of prison and clear his name?
On the surface, it can seem that MONSTER is a very basic story with an obvious outcome. In 2021 Hollywood, any accused black male will find himself proven innocent of the crimes charged against him. However, the movie’s writing team and Director Anthony Mandler take many fascinating approaches to the timeworn topic of a black male who’s been unjustly imprisoned.
First, they let the story be driven by Steve’s highly stylized narration, where he spends half the movie narrating the story like he’s reading a screenplay (“Interior – Courtroom – Day”). Seeing the world through this talented young artist’s eyes results in an extremely well-drawn, three-dimensional character study.
As Steve, Kelvin Harrison, Jr. leaps to the challenge, recalling Denzel Washington at his best in a riveting, multi-layered performance. Jeffrey Wright and Jennifer Hudson provide sterling support as his parents. One of the movie’s best scenes takes place in a prison visiting area as Steve’s mother leads him in reading key Scriptures of hope aloud to him in the most desperate of places.
While MONSTER is being offered on Netflix as part of its “Black Lives Matter collection,” it steers clear of politicizing its issues. It would be too easy for MONSTER to portray all white people as evil oppressors out to ruin young black lives and make all the black men involved innocent and framed. Instead, it shows the two thugs who committed the murder as unmitigated creeps. Also, it lets Steve’s impassioned public defender (Jennifer Ehle) and film teacher (Tim Blake Nelson) be white heroes in the crusade to clear Steven’s name. This clear-headed yet often stark approach is a powerful one that lets the story shake up viewers without being heavy-handed. Finally, the ways in which the story unfolds as intermittent flashbacks that can be considered in multiple ways from the point-of-view of each major character is also unique and fascinating.
MONSTER has a strong Christian, moral, pro-family worldview with positive references to God and the Bible. Also, MONSTER has no depicted lewd content and presents the murder as tastefully as possible while at the same time conveying its horror. Two men are seen viciously beating the store owner on his surveillance cameras before they accidentally shoot him in a fight for his gun and leave the scene as he lays dying. The scuffle isn’t bloody or highly graphic. However, MONSTER contains many strong obscenities and some strong profanities. There’s also some teenage alcohol use and marijuana smoking at a party. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.