Monster on Netflix features a lot of familiar faces, but should you stream it or skip it?


Netflix continues to deliver on its promise of new movies every week and the quality is the key to the success of this rollout. This week, the crime drama Monster arrives and offers something juicy for viewers to take a bite out of.

The story itself is not unfamiliar. Monster is a story about a good kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A robbery has taken place and a man was killed. We know that the main character in our story, Steve Harmon (played by personal favorite Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Waves) did not pull the trigger but that is not what will determine his innocence.

The law says that if you were involved in a felony where someone ends up dead, you can be tried for that murder. So was he involved?

More from Drama

We don’t get this answer right away. The film is narrated by Steve as he’s telling the story of how he got here and what he’s feeling as he reflects on the decisions along the way that resulted in him being on trial for felony murder.

Monster wants us to see Steve on trial first because that is who the jury will see, before showing us Steve before the crime. The film club student from a good home with a diverse friend group. If we met this kid first we wouldn’t believe he’d be on trial for murder, and that’s the point of the movie.

Being introduced to incarcerated Steve before being introduced to care-free Steve does a lot of the leg work in making the movie incredibly tense. We don’t know how he got from point B to point A but the fact that he’s here and he’s a young black man we know that the odds are likely not in his favor.

Steve, speaking to us like a filmmaker describing the scenes in a movie at times and reacting to his world at others, shows us how being in a courtroom or in a prison strips you of your humanity. The only thing that matters about you is what the jury believes once everyone has told their stories.

Netflix’s Monster keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes you think

On top of a deep and layered story, Monster also has a great cast. Besides budding star Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Monster features veterans John David Washington (Tenet), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty), Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games), Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), and Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou). The young cast members include Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight) and Lovie Simone (Selah and the Spades).

The two most intriguing co-stars come from the hip-hop world. Nas (Belly) plays an inmate who offers some important guidance to Steve while he’s inside. It’s not a large role but it is a memorable one. ASAP Rocky (Dope) plays William King.

A young man who is on trial with Steve. When introduced they appear to come from different worlds but as the movie takes us back, we see that the two do have some sort of connection. Rocky’s character is a street kid but as we get to know him on the outside, we see he has a brain too.

The only misstep in the film is that we see William King on trial with Steve but we don’t get to see how his side of the trial is handled outside of when he is addressed by witnesses. Steve gets to have character witnesses but where were King’s? I understand that the movie was about Steve but William was an interesting character that I felt they could have gotten more out of.

Monster still

Should you watch Monster?

As I stated above, Monster is a drama. You are introduced to a young man who is facing the most difficult time of his life and the uncertainty of what his future will bring. We get glimpses of his life before where we can see his promise and potential, and then we are also shown the decisions that led him to where we are meeting him.

While watching this film I could not help but think of my own childhood and how a decision here or there could have landed me in a bad situation. Not necessarily this one but something that could have been life-changing. At one point in the film, Steve is doing this same reflecting and thinking about other situations he had been in that could have gotten him in trouble with the law. His friends drinking at a party, things of that nature. Monster is the type of movie that will likely hit home for many.

dark. Next. Tom Clancy's Without Remorse: Stream or Skip?

However, even if you can’t relate to the situation, the tension is real and you will be invested in Steve’s fate. Whether you’re sucked in by his caring parents or his own charm when you get to see him photographing and filming his surroundings, you will care.

The layers added by the other characters around him make his story feel authentic and it paints a great picture of how perception can shape your reality. This film might be one of the best I’ve seen at making the viewer understand how profiling works without being too heavy-handed.

Monster is now streaming on Netflix and should definitely be on your watch list.