13 October 2018 | paul-allaer
"Monsters and Men" vs. "The Hate U Give", and the winner is...
"Monsters and Men" (2018 release; 05 min.) brings the story of three black men. As the movie opens, a black guy (we later learn his name is Dennis) in his car is pulled over for no apparent reason. After the cops check his driver's license, they tell him "sorry to bother you, you are good to go", but what the cops don't know is that Dennis is a copy himself (off duty at that time). We then get to know Manny, who is filling out a job application to become a building security guard. After coming back home in Brooklyn, he notices a commotion, and comes close, filming the whole thing. A black guy in a store is surrounded by 6 or 7 cops. At some point a shot is fired and the black guy is killed. Later on, Manny struggles whether to release the footage. At this point we're 10 min. into the movie. In the third story line much later in the movie, we get to know Zyrich, a high school baseball phenom. To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the feature-length debut from writer/director Reinaldo Marcus Green. Here he tackles an all too familiar topic these days: police brutality, in particular white cop against unarmed black man. It is very easy to fall in the trap of stereotypes (all cops are bad!!!), which this film thankfully avoids (unlike another recent movie--more on that later) hence credit must go to Green for providing a more nuanced perspective. In that sense, Dennis (the black cop) plays the most important role in the movie, and the casting of John David Washington is a stroke of genius, as he is outstanding, just as he was in "BlackkKlansman" earlier this year. Washington brings Dennis as an earnest guy who tries his best in a difficult environment. The story line of Manny is also top notch. So far, so good. Alas, the last third of the movie, centering around HS baseball phenom Zyrich falters badly. I see what Green is trying to do but it simple does not feel authentic or credible. But overall I still quite liked the film. This is in stark contrast to that other recent "white cop brutality against unarmed black man" themed movie, "The Hate U Give", in which there literally isn't a single decent white person (let alone a cop) in the movie and all African-Americans are 'good' (but for the token black drug king). By all means stay far away from "The Hate U Give".
"Monsters and Men" premiered at this year's Sundance film festival to good acclaim. It recently opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. The early evening screening where I saw this at turned out to be a private screening as in: I was literally the only person in the theater. Hopefully this movie will garner a wider audience when it becomes available on more platforms. If you are interested in important social issues that are brought in a nuanced manner, I'd readily suggest you check out "Monsters and Men", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.