Written and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, Monsters and Men immerses us in a Brooklyn neighbourhood and follows the fall-out of a police shooting as the aftermath ripples through the community.
This is Green’s first feature-length production, and it’s confident and assured - tackling complexity with understated storytelling.
Monsters and Men is a story told in three acts through the experiences of three men. Manny (Anthony Ramos), a young father who witnesses and records the police shooting. Dennis (John David Washington), an officer in the squad that was responsible for the shooting. Zyrick (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a high school student pursuing dreams of a baseball career.
Green’s casting is one of the film’s strengths – the three leads deliver measured, compelling performances that connect the audience with the dilemmas that their characters are struggling with.
Green doesn’t shy away from the topicality of his subject matter – events deliberately mirror real-life dramas and dilemmas.
Connected story-lines of this style used to be a trademark of Robert Altman. There’s a danger with this technique that it can feel a bit contrived, but Green is able to draw on a strong sense of place and community to give the device an authenticity that works. Actions have consequences. Everyone has something to lose. Divided loyalties are impossible to reconcile.
This is a film that simmers with intent and intensity. There’s no fireworks, there’s no easy answers, but Green consistently draws you back to his central question - What would you do?