In a month where people are burning their Nike apparel for the company’s association with activist Colin Kaepernick, rather than looking at the root cause of the athlete’s peaceful protest, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Monsters and Men feels both timely and important. It strips away the rhetoric and forces one to confront various complexities revolving around police shootings of unarmed African-Americans.
Green’s film may present its questions in a digestible way, but the onus is on the viewer to come up with their own solution to this intricate problem.
When Big D (Samel Edwards), a staple outside the local corner store, is gunned down after a confrontation with six police officers, a community is left to deal with the aftermath. While the police claim that the large man was reaching for their guns, Manny’s (Anthony Ramos) cell phone footage of the incident tells a different story. Just landing a new job, and being pressured by some cops to stay silent, Manny must decide whether he is willing to place his family in jeopardy by releasing the footage.
For Dennis (John David Washington), a black police officer, the shooting puts additional stress on both his professional and home life. A subject of routine police profiling when not in uniform, he knows how tough the system can be on black people. Though Dennis tries to lead by example, the “family” mentality of the force causes him to reluctantly turn a blind eye to the corruption within it. Unlike Dennis, young baseball phenom Zyric (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) cannot simply remain silent about what he has experience and witnessed. Days away from a scouting showcase for the major leagues, Zyric gets involved in student activism with the help of his friend Zoe (Chanté Adams).
Frequently showing that not all is as it appears to be on the surface, and exposing the viewer’s preconceived notions in the process, Monsters and Men is an impressive debut feature. Never showing us the actual shooting, Green’s lens instead focuses on the facial reactions of those who observe the incident. The pain of recognition is written on all over their faces. A pain not only caused by the frequency of these events, but also the realization that they could have met the same fate as Big D at any point.
Despite the sprawling nature of the subject matter, which also touches the important role women of colour play in modern activism and the way athletes are expected to maintain a certain image to name a few, the film manages to feel contained and focused. Monsters and Men boldly shows that one needs to address all the various levels of this systemic problem to fix the root of it.
Friday, September 7, 2:30 PM, Winter Garden Theatre
Friday, September 14, 2:30 PM, Winter Garden Theatre