"Monster" stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson, Rakim "A$AP Rocky" Mayers, John David Washington, Jennifer Hudson, and Jeffrey Wright. Released on Netflix on May 7, 2021, the film is about an honor student who is falsely charged with felony murder.
The film featured the directorial debut of Anthony Mandler, and it is based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Walter Dean Myers. About a week ago, we started another summer movie season with an action film that's not Marvel-related. Because clearly, watching Jason Statham working at a cash truck company was more exciting than watching superheroes save the world countless times. So let's continue the season with a courtroom drama on Netflix, shall we? The film I'm looking at today made its debut at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival yet didn't receive a wide release until Netflix picked it up two years later. With the world going backwards in terms of racism, it doesn't hurt to have another film like this on the streaming service, right? With that in mind, let's see if this Netflix drama marks another successful call to end racial discrimination.
The film tells the story of Steve Harmon (Harrison Jr.), a seventeen-year-old student who attends an elite high school in Harlem to pursue his career in filmmaking. He is supported by his friends and family, including his mother (Hudson) and father (Wright). His perfect life soon takes an unexpected nosedive when he is accused of being a part of a robbery-turned-murder incident. Now faced with felony charges, Steve has to rely on his lawyer (Ehle) in a legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. This is another film that represents a flawed justice system that quickly judges its suspects based on their skin color. Not only that, but it also showcased the perception of truth in terms of a person's actions. These themes alone speak very fondly to those who suffer from this unspeakable sense of stupidity. Presented through a non-linear narrative and accompanied by Harrison Jr.'s compelling narration, "Monster" depicted these situations in a thoughtful and provoking matter. Its execution wasn't as timeless as its subject matter regarding its predictable plot elements and storytelling. However, the film relied on an enthralling cast to overshadow its problems and deliver a courtroom drama that's as poetic as it is engaging. After appearing in a few films as a supporting actor, Kelvin Harrison Jr. took center stage as the main lead in the film, and he did not disappoint. His performance as Steve displayed plenty of humanity and emotion into a character who only wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jennifer Hudson and Jeffrey Wright continued to provide some remarkable talent on screen as Steve's parents, while Jennifer Ehle offered a subtle and engaging performance as Maureen O'Brien, Steve's lawyer. Additionally, the film saw Anthony Mandler helming a full-length narrative for the first time, following his work as a photographer and as a director for countless music videos and television commercials. Even though his directorial style was understandably modest at best, Mandler's attempt at injecting some life into its courtroom sequences was hard for me to ignore. As I mentioned earlier, the film's story did happen to suffer a bit from its thin execution towards providing some intense tear-jerking scenarios, whether it's for the characters or its real-life problems or both. The non-linear narrative managed to keep things well-paced and give a sense of mystery as to how the characters got to this point, even if the end result is anything but surprising.
Overall, "Monster" is a compelling legal drama that may be as faulty as the justice system today. Still, it boasts a talented cast and a decent first-time director to overrule its iffy perspectives. There are plenty of films that handled this touchy subject a lot better than this, but it has a good enough substance to stand alongside the movies that rose against racial inequality. If you're into these types of themes, it's worth checking out on Netflix.