R Dir: Reinaldo Marcus Green | Universal | 1h 38min
Plot: What’s it about?
I remember seeing the trailer for Monsters and Men and being somewhat intrigued. I’ll touch more on the plot in a bit, but the film received mostly positive reviews, but with such a limited release, the film seemed to come and go without much talk. After having viewed the film, I can see why. Despite the positive reaction from critics, the film failed to click with me and left me rather detached and distant. It tackles an all too familiar topic today, but does nothing with it. It just sits there and plods along slowly to its conclusion.
With a plot that can be taken straight from the headlines, Monsters and Men features the killing of an innocent black man by police officers. Two bystanders filmed the incident and we view the aftermath from their perspective. We’ve had several films recently that touched on this issue, but unfortunately, this one falls on the more forgettable side. I enjoyed Blindspotting and The Hate U Give, while not great, at least made more of an impression than this film. Hate certainly took a more heavy-handed approach, but Monsters is much more understated. Too much in fact that I wish the film had a stronger tone, because as it stands, it feels like it has little to say or offer viewers. John David Washington plays police officer Dennis Williams. He seems rather calm and reserved, and we learn that despite being an officer, he still gets pulled over by cops quite often. Another character, Manny (Anthony Ramos) is introduced and he’s friends with one of the locals who is murdered by the police. The man is innocent and it’s filmed by Manny. Now Manny is faced with the decision to keep this to himself or release the video and face the consequences. There’s another character named Zyrick (Kelvin Harrison Jr) who is also affected by this incident and we follow his story as well. His father is an officer and Zyrick is about to go off to college and play baseball. Needless to say, his father isn’t happy about his son’s decision to protest.
The premise of this film is relevant and somewhat intriguing, but the execution is the problem I have with it. It feels slow and understated to a fault. I wish the film established a firmer tone and it might’ve made a stronger impact. Instead it gives us these characters that I cared nothing about. I never felt the tension or repercussions of this young man releasing this video. We get small glimpses of that, but the film failed to engage me like I thought it would, or should, dare I say. I think it’s understated to a fault that in turn, it can feel pointless and meandering when it should have more to say. Obviously the central premise is an all too common problem in modern society, but that’s about as deep as the film goes. What should have made an impact on me, the film made me long for the closing credits instead.
Video: How’s it look?
We get an AVC encoded 1.85:1 transfer that’s pretty much satisfying all around. There’s a nice clarity to the presentation and sharp details throughout. I wonder if a 4K release would’ve been even sharper, but the results here leave little to be desired. There were a few moments early in the film where I felt the style looked weird. It seemed to zoom in a little too closely on the character’s faces, but I feel this is more of how it was filmed, so I don’t fault the transfer for that. All things considered, this transfer serves the film well.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track is good, but not as impressive as the visuals. The surround channels and city surroundings are impressive, but the vocals seemed more muted than I would have liked. There’s a clarity, but I felt they could’ve sounded sharper. Still, it serves the film good enough that it’s not too problematic. It just felt more restricted than I anticipated.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Stop – This is a short film (9:06) from the Writer/Director of this film.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
With a premise ripped straight from the headlines, Monsters and Men failed to engage me. The ingredients are there, but I felt the execution to be strongly lacking. The characters aren’t developed enough to make me care and the film feels far too understated for the material. I don’t like preachy films, but this needed something more. There are far better films dealing with a similar premise that you should seek out before this one. Skip it.