Writer/director Reinaldo Marcus Green's triptych drama, Monsters and Men, about the intersections of cops and civilians in New York City, is one of a number of new films to focus on police brutality. At times, Green's film feels too familiar, exploring what we already know -- cops can be dirty and may retaliate if they're crossed. The tone is muted, subtle, as opposed to other dramas that take on the subject with outrage, anger and a fitting formal chaos. In that way, Monsters and Men seems like it was made for the world that existed a few years ago. I honestly can't tell if my dissatisfaction is with the movie or the era into which it is released.
The first story is deeply inspired by Ramsey Orta, the man who documented Eric Garner's murder and is -- to this day -- the only person present at Garner's death to go to prison. Here, his name is Manny Ortega (Anthony Ramos), but the rest of his narrative is true to Orta's. He has a child and is gainfully employed when a couple of local cops begin intimidating him, spending their free time trying to dig up anything to put Ortega away. They succeed; imagine people with every resource at their fingertips sorting through your past to trump up a charge. It's a slow, slogging walk of a narrative, with Ortega's fate sealed. And that's likely Green's point. In the final narrative, starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Major League Baseball hopeful Zyric, all the repressed feeling bursts out, as Zyric lies down on the ground at a protest, the police shouting threats of arrest.