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'Monster' Review With Casey

First of all, let me explain this film is not the gritty drama from 2003 starring Charlize Theron as a real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. This Monster was filmed in 2018 and was just released on May 7 through Netflix. 

Adapted from the 1999 young adult novel of the same name by African-American author Walter Dean Myers, Monster is a timely and tragic story centered on a promising, Black, teenage, high school boy in Harlem (Kelvin Harrison Jr., Luce, 2019) who is arrested and jailed for a robbery and murder in a neighborhood bodega. As the trial proceeds in a sterile courtroom devoid of color, vibrant and rich flashbacks give clues about the boy's life, his family, and his passion for filmmaking.


Monster deftly illustrates the discrepancies all too common in the U.S. justice system and the general prejudice against young Black Americans. The young man on trial is characterized as a monster by the prosecuting attorney (only a monster could commit such a violent murder), a metaphor used rather often to describe people of color.


While the film is an earnest presentation of racial anxieties, and the actors give determined performances, Monster lacks an elusive gusto or spark to elevate it from a satisfactory character study to a more layered, multifaceted, and superb emotional journey. It felt like I was sitting in a restaurant and was served a beautifully arranged entree. And then as I started eating the entree, I realized it was prepared with no spices, herbs, or seasonings. Films that explore the worlds of minorities are illuminating for lots of viewers, myself included. I just hope these kinds of films have more bite, or more command, than this one.  

Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.