Three years after it first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Anthony Mandler's Monster is finally getting to see the light of day through a release on Netflix. Whatever the reason was behind such a delay in the film being picked up is a baffling one to me because it's an engaging legal drama with an impressive cast and a narrative that will keep the audience on their toes. 

Based on the award winning novel by Walter Dean Myers, the film tells the story of Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a 17 yr old honors student and aspiring filmmaker who gets caught up in a robbery where a murder happens. The film follows his dramatic journey through a complex legal battle for his fight to prove his innocence.

Monster attempts to make its mark on the world with a non-linear narrative where the audience are taken back to events in Steve Harmon's life as the murder trial he is a defendant on proceeds. It's hardly a new way of telling a story but it's an effective method for this film, showcasing just how bright and intelligent a young man Steve is and how getting mixed up with the wrong sort of people could lead to a life-changing ordeal.

The narration from Steve and the percussive sounds clouding his thoughts during the early days of the trial highlight the anxiousness and how frightened the young man is, his thoughts on how he will be perceived by the jury long before he gets a chance to tell his side of things frustrating before it all starts to seem a little more as if his re-telling of the truth may not be exactly that. The courtroom sequences can get a little melodramatic at times but they mix with the fragments of Steve's life shown in flashbacks very well.

The narrative leans on the audience to make their own mind up on proceedings and they're aided by a ensemble of solid performances along the way. Kelvin Harrison Jr. has a major future ahead of him and he's great in the lead role of Monster, screen presence in abundance to make him an engaging character. The supporting cast is impressive, Jeffrey Wright a strong presence as Steve's father and Jennifer Ehle as his defence attorney, the sequences outside of the courtroom these characters share being better than those within.

It may not be the best legal drama you'll ever see but what Monster does try to do is something I found to be quite refreshing, Steve being a film student and discussions within the classroom opening up his version of events to many interpretations. It falters a little in this regard but I'd still say it's worth a watch.

Verdict: ★★★


Popular Posts