Monster Parent Guide
This film is at its best in the ethical morass of the courtroom.
Parent Movie Review
All Steve Harmon (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) wants to do is work on his personal film projects and hang out with his little brother, but his options are about to be seriously limited. A robbery at the neighborhood bodega goes awry, resulting in the death of the owner, and Steve was seen in the bodega just before it was hit. Now facing up to 25 years in prison as an accessory to the murder, Steve’s best hope is his attorney, Katherine O’Brien (Jennifer Ehle). On the other side, prosecutor Anthony Petrocelli (Paul Ben-Victor) is determined to win a conviction, and he’s got more than a few witnesses lined up to make sure that Steve never sees freedom again…
Kelvin Harrison Jr. certainly seems to have a type in his films – the high-performing but troubled teen. He played a very similar character in Luce and Waves, and if you’ve seen either of those films, you know roughly what to expect from him in this one. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a talented actor, but I’d like to see him branch out a little at this point. Jennifer Ehle, Jeffrey Wright, and A$AP Rocky round out the rest of the cast, and their performances keep the courtroom drama moving quickly.
The movie is at its strongest when it wades into the ethical swamp of the courtroom. As the trial progresses and we learn more about Steve as a character, the issue shifts from a black-and-white determination of guilt to a moral quagmire about justice. Whether or not Steve was involved in the botched robbery is not the only question. The other is whether he deserves to spend 25 years of his life in prison for walking around a bodega, even if his actions contributed to the crime. The fundamental injustice of such a sentence and the callous indifference of the prosecution are what make this film successful.
Of course, it’s hard to portray prison without running into some content concerns. Those associated with crime are not famed for their genteel language, and that certainly doesn’t improve behind bars, so you can expect a lot of profanity. There is also a scene which briefly portrays teen use of alcohol and marijuana. While the film still has valuable lessons about the justice system, it isn’t a great choice for younger viewers. However, in spite of the language, this could be a good conversation starter for older teens, and a good place to start thinking about what justice means, both to individuals and society as a whole.Directed by Anthony Mandler. Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., John David Washington, Jennifer Ehle, Jeffrey Wright. Running time: 98 minutes. Theatrical release May 7, 2021. Updated May 7, 2021
Watch the trailer for Monster
Rating & Content Info
Why is Monster rated R? Monster is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout, some violence and bloody images
Violence: A man is shot and killed. There are references to other violent crimes.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are 33 sexual expletives, 16 scatological terms, and occasional uses of mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Teens are briefly seen using alcohol and marijuana.
Page last updated May 7, 2021
Monster Parents' Guide
Steve is charged with murder for being peripherally involved in a crime in which someone was killed. Do you think that legislation is reasonable? What are some of the more upsetting real-life consequences of laws like this? What kind of efforts are being made to reform the criminal justice system in the US?
Equal Justice Initiative: Criminal Justice Reform
The Atlantic: Prosecutors Need to take the Lead in Reforming Prisons
The New York Times: Left and Right Agree on Criminal Justice: They Were Both Wrong Before
The USA has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. Why do you think this is? Do you think something should be done about that? What do you think motivates the mass incarceration of Americans? What other issues affect incarceration rates? How does race play a role in mass incarceration? What is the prison industrial complex, and how does it play a role in politics?
ACLU: Mass Incarceration
Brennan Center for Justice: The History of Mass Incarceration
The Sentencing Project: The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons
Related home video titles:
Kelvin Harrison Jr. has played troubled teens in Luce and Waves. Another recent film about incarceration is All Day and a Night. Classic options include To Kill a Mockingbirdand Twelve Angry Men. Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th focuses on issues of race and mass incarceration in America.