"Slow Social Drama"
What You Need To Know:
The performances of all three men are solid, but MONSTERS AND MEN goes nowhere. It’s too slow and doesn’t have enough plot to be compelling. Also, the stories of the three men aren’t full resolved. In fact, the Latino man just drops out of the story. MONSTERS AND MEN has a strong Romantic, somewhat liberal worldview with some strong foul language. However, it’s mitigated by some solid moral elements where characters try to do the right thing. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for MONSTERS AND MEN.
MONSTERS AND MEN follows the emotional, personal problems caused by a police shooting of an unarmed black man, on three men: a fellow police officer, the young man who filmed the shooting and another young man drawn into protests because he’s tired of seeing fellow young black men stopped by police. Despite some good performances, MONSTERS AND MEN is too slow and doesn’t resolve its three stories. MONSTERS AND MEN also has a strong Romantic, somewhat liberal worldview with some strong foul language, but mitigated by some solid moral elements where characters try to do the right thing.
The movie first follows an African-American police officer named Dennis (John David Washington), who is pulled over himself just for being black and driving a nice car through the New York City streets, in the opening scene. Thus, he’s frustrated by the unfairness exhibited by his fellow officers to too many black men, and one night he is on patrol when he drives by other officers handling a small melee outside a liquor store.
The movie shifts focus to a young Latino man, who has just landed a job as a front desk security man for a major New York building. He also has a girlfriend and baby living with him at his mom’s house. He films the police ganging up on a young black man, outnumbering him six to one before a gun is heard firing off screen, and the Latino man is extremely disturbed by what he just filmed. Soon, he’s being harassed by cops about having shot the footage. Meanwhile, the police officer, Dennis, is fed up that his fellow officers have brought scandal upon all police, even good ones like himself, again.
The final piece of the story follows a high-school baseball prospect about to be scouted by multiple major-league teams. The young man has to decide whether to listen to his father and stay out of the public outrage in order to save his chance at the big time, or to follow his burgeoning frustration and take part in the protests.
MONSTERS AND MEN is a slow-paced, thoughtful slice-of-life triptych of tales. It’s obviously a passion project for Writer/Director Reinaldo Marcus Green, who foregoes traditional plot structures to search the emotional depths of these three men. The story focusing on Dennis the cop features a stirring scene where he defends himself and other good police who are unfairly tarred with the complaints against the bad behavior of others. It’s beautifully written and strongly performed by Washington and is a refreshing yet sadly rare case of a movie defending those who do the incredibly stressful and difficult job of securing our streets. The other two stories are empathetic to the perspectives of young Latino and black men who feel (rightly or wrongly) they’re unfairly singled out by police simply because of their ethnicity.
The problem with all three tales, though, is that they don’t ever fully resolve. For example, Dennis is shown refusing to comment to Internal Affairs on the officer who did the shooting. Meanwhile, the Latino security guard simply drops out of the movie midway, and the baseball player winds up finding an intriguing compromise to convey his beliefs.
The performances of all three featured actors are solid, but ultimately MONSTERS AND MEN goes nowhere. It’s too slow and doesn’t have enough plot to be compelling, leaving this a noble effort that needed to have more on its mind in order to be truly worthwhile. Extreme caution is advised for some strong foul language.