Review: 'Monsters and Men' tackles timely issue

John David Washington stars in this stirring drama about police brutality

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Anthony Ramos and John David Washington in "Monsters and Men."

An acute rumination on a complex issue, "Monsters and Men" takes a contemplative look at police brutality from three distinct perspectives.  

Writer-director Reinaldo Marcus Green, in a promising debut feature, doesn't come up with any answers, only poses more questions, which befits the knotty times we're living in and this problem that has yet to be solved.

The murder of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood lights the wick of the plot, and Green turns his camera on the reactions of three individuals. 

Manny ("A Star is Born's" Anthony Ramos) is a neighborhood family man who not only witnesses the murder, but films it on his phone. He becomes the target of police threats after he uploads the footage so people can see what really happened.

Dennis (John David Washington, "BlacKkKlansman") is a cop in the neighborhood who is a frequent victim of racial profiling himself; in the film's opening scene, he's pulled over by the police while off-duty. His efforts to do good in the neighborhood, playing basketball with local teenagers, are derailed by the growing hostility toward the police.

Zyric (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is a promising baseball prospect with a ticket out of the neighborhood, but he feels disconnected to his community and longs to become involved with the protests surrounding the murder. But at what cost to him and his future?

"Monsters and Men's" floating narrative approach leaves some resolution to be desired, but it gives it a present tense feeling that ramps up its urgency. The film seems so freshly ripped from today's headlines that it feels like there's still more of the story to be told, which in a sense, there is.


'Monsters and Men'


Rated R for language

Running time: 98 minutes