As he comes to the end of his monologue, picking up pace, the frenzied beats of a jazz drummer surge beneath his increasingly offensive accusations. Monster

Review by Flora Spencer Grant

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Directed by

Anthony Mandler


Jennifer Ehle
John David Washington
Kelvin Harrison Jr

Anticipation. A queasy greenish tint and unsteady handheld camera symbolise Steve’s anguish in prison, bright white overhead lighting and a muted colour palette characterise the courtroom, while his life before his arrest is shown contrastingly warm hues. A great cast, but I’m tired of watching Black trauma through the lens of white directors. Each narrative thread has its own distinct visual texture. The latter two’s complete lack of characterisation beyond ‘thug’ or ‘gang member’ is galling, especially given the fact that Cruz is only 15 years old. Innocent until proven guilty is often not the case if you’re Black. It seems, then, that the real injustice of this story isn’t that Black people are mistreated by the racist legal system, but rather that Steve has been lumped in with the rest despite his middle class family, good education and creative aspirations. The more I think about this film, the angrier I get. Steve is told throughout that he doesn’t belong in prison, that he’s a good kid who doesn’t deserve to be there. Meanwhile, King, Evans and Cruz are defined by their negative associations. In a climactic moment he dramatically gestures towards King as the drums pick up speed. “He’s a monster!” Then onto Steve, the drums roll in anticipation of Petrocelli’s censure. Ultimately the film reinforces the very notions of morality and punishment it seeks to reject. The story unfolds across three timeframes – the jail, the courtroom, and the lead up to the crime – flitting back and forth between them. An excellent performance from Kelvin Harrison Jr can’t salvage this misjudged racial drama. The film’s title derives from the opening statement by the overzealous prosecuting attorney, Anthony Petrocelli (Paul Ben-Victor). No one should be treated the way Steve and his peers were treated, regardless of whether they have committed a crime or not, and regardless of whether they measure up to white ideals of respectability or not. The prosecution claim that Steve scoped out the location of the crime under instruction of neighbourhood friend William King (Rakim Mayers, aka A$AP Rocky). It’s an important point the film fails to grasp. Enjoyment. “He’s a monster!” The use of music is clearly intended to highlight the weight of his words, but some of the emotional impact of this dehumanising claim is lost in this unnecessary melodrama. Published 7 May 2021

Share this When we get caught up in ideas of innocence and guilt then the real issues are overlooked. This series of events is corroborated by the other perpetrators Osvaldo Cruz (Jharrel Jerome) and Richard ‘Bobo’ Evans (John David Washington) who have both taken plea deals in exchange for their testimonies. In Retrospect. It follows 17-year-old Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison Jr), a well-liked student and aspiring filmmaker from Harlem, New York, as he is put on trial for his alleged involvement in a bodega robbery that turned fatal. Share this

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Kelvin Harrison Jr goes on trial in this well-intention but overly melodramatic look at America’s racist legal system.Originally debuting at Sundance in 2018, the first feature from music video director Anthony Mandler was adapted from Walter Dean Myers’ award-winning novel of the same name.

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