Coincidences are a damn good thing. Anthony MandlerIndie drama “Monster” is a movie that premiered on Sundance in 2018 but didn’t hit Netflix until the week of May 7th. That same week, Derek became Chauvin, the convicted murderer of George Floydmoves to request a new trial. His attorney claims Chauvin was denied a fair trial because of the pre-trial public relations work. “Monster” based on Walter Dean MyersThe 1999 novel of the same name begins with a possible new interest. Mandler’s adaptation of a young Black Honor student embroiled in a complex legal battle after being charged with the murder of a bodega owner relies on issues such as race, truth, and justice. The release so soon after Chauvin’s initial verdict can be an interesting contrast to receive despite the film’s rather normal running of affairs.
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One of the strongest aspects of “Monster” is the well-chosen, fine-tuned cast of the film. Except for the distracting near-cameo appearance of John David Washington, whose star power has increased in performance since the film was completed. Mandler may be better known as a music video director, but it’s pretty clear he can get solid performance from (admittedly) reliable actors. Kelvin Harrison Jr. (“waves“) Has a hard time guiding the story with an uninspiring narrative, but its performance within the film itself is a gripping one. Balancing the difficult line of showing emotional vulnerability while still having some doubt about the events that may have occurred between his character Steve and his quick friend, William King, who is also on trial. A $ AP Rocky King plays with the charismatic boast you’d expect from a rapper turned actor of his stature. Reliable twists and turns from people like Jeffery Wright, Jennifer Hudson, and Tim Blake Nelson also appear. Standard material no surprise.
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camera operator David Devlin helps provide the second important element of “Monster”. This is a nice debut feature. Mandler’s music video background and Devlin’s keen eye give us a vibrant and rich film. Even cold prison scenes add a ton of texture. In the movie, Steve’s dad is a man of the arts, and his little statement to his son about the golden ratio of photography is cute. Mainly because it was mentioned once, it will be seen consistently afterwards, including immediately after the exchange. The film looks good and the actors are getting along well with the material.
How does “Monster” trip? Possibly because it feels like a business card feature that never really shocks, doesn’t excite, and never really surprises. The film focuses on how innocent to demonstrably guilty can become chaotic in a carefully stereotyped society. At an early stage, a distressed policeman questions Steve before his mug shots are taken. Jennifer Ehles The role of Steve’s public defender comes with the standard moments expected from such a role. Watch the defendant ashen as she does the job. Noting that the jury will be difficult to influence because Steve is young, black and on trial. It’s a bit entertaining, but all very typical.
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Hardened cinephiles can find mention of one Akira Kurosawa show a crucial factor in their feelings in the film. The film school moment that appears in the middle of the feature film is both inviting and eye-catching at the same time. To see a young adult movie, it’s nice to see how such a movie is contextualized, with so many recent film commentaries only highlighting the reluctance of modern cinema to care about anything before the 1980s. However, anyone with a broad taste in cinema can create the impression that it is a powerful clue as to where “Monster” is going. If not the film referred to, then surely the explanation of that film. Even at the time Nas (executive producer) appears as a vet in prison, noting that “you have to stand by your own truth”. The cat feels like it’s out of the bag.
Still, “Monster” has its moments. A brilliantly executed montage that delivers much of the process of the story in a rage of quick cuts is a standout moment. Just because it conveys the disorienting nature of such a lawsuit for a teenager like Steve, a moment of chess and a saying about tiger can be another obvious moment, but one that is amusing. And while the film hits every conventional beat like a marching band, its practical appearance now, a year after the BLM protests, gives the film a relevance that may have been diminished if it was released shortly before its completion. If the idea of contrasting “monsters” with the current real socio-politics does not appeal, “monsters” would also do a rather sobering double calculation Lenny Abrahamson’S“What Richard did ” (2012). While “Monster” never hits as hard as the Irish feature, it would provide some interesting food for thought. [B-]
“Monster” is now available on Netflix.