Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2018 by Marshall Shaffer
It’s both sad and encouraging that a cinematic vocabulary has developed around the continuing incidents of police officers shooting unarmed black men. In their most recent films, filmmakers Jordan Peele and Spike Lee have even knowingly created moments of dramatic irony around the perceived outcome of cops arriving at a nebulously defined scene. We know that they might perceive differently than the characters involved in it, producing a moment of unbearable tension. While the awareness generated after the Black Lives Matter movement propelled these longstanding injustices into public consciousness is important, such recognition has not necessarily accompanied sweeping attitudinal changes.
Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Monsters and Men, a tripartite examination of race and policing in America, is very much a movie of its moment. But with the sheer volume of other films tackling similar questions of racial identity in the face of imminent and insidious oppression – Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You, BlacKkKlansman, to name a few from 2018 alone – it cannot lay exclusive claim to the mantle. While Green’s debut feature might not be able to match other comparable titles in the nuance of its observations, he compensates with breadth of experience documented. He crafts a film akin to The Place Beyond the Pines within the blast radius of a police shooting, watching how a community-shattering event produces fallout that creeps ever outward beyond the initial participants.