Monsters and Men
Stars: John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Jesmine Cephas Jones, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
This hard-hitting but clumsily didactic Brooklyn-set drama takes its inspiration from two real life incidents that occurred in 2014: one, the shooting of young man Eric Garner by an overzealous police officer; and the subsequent gunning down of two NYPD cops. It begins with Big D, a gentle giant local, often to be found on the corner selling cigarettes, being shot for supposedly resisting arrest. The incident is witnessed and filmed on his phone by Manny (Ramos) a young Latino man. Outraged by the incident Manny, who has just started a new job and whose girlfriend is pregnant with their second child, is wary of drawing attention to himself at such a precarious time. When the reports of the incident claim wrongly that Big D was carrying a gun, Manny decides to post the video online. With a grim inevitability he is arrested and detained on a trumped-up charge. The focus shifts to Dennis (Washington), an idealistic African-American cop who is all too aware of racial issues, such as when, off-duty, he is regularly pulled over by his fellow officers. Witnessing Manny’s questioning through a one-way mirror, Dennis becomes convinced that the young man is being set up, but as he is due for a promotion, is reluctant to rock the boat. The last segment follows Zyrick (Harrison), a promising college graduate, whose growing political activism following his witnessing of the shooting, threatens his prospects. As the precis suggests, the film suffers from an over-schematic feel, with the characters frequently acting as mere vessels for opposing viewpoints, while splitting the action into three segments leaves all three of the stories feeling sketchy. At least the films boasts a keen sense of the lived-in Brooklyn environs, and Ramos and Washington manage, almost in spite of the script, to flesh out their characters.