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The Gripping Courtroom Drama That's Killing It On Netflix

Netflix continues to deliver entertaining and thoughtful content in 2021, and the streamer doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon. The newest Netflix Original movie that should be on your radar is "Monster," based on the 1999 award-winning novel of the same name by Walter Dean Myers. The story of "Monster" follows a Black teenager named Steve Harmon who finds himself on trial for his supposed involvement in a murder that occurred during a robbery. Harmon is played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., who some might recognize from his breakout roles in "Waves," "The Trial of the Chicago 7," or "The High Note," along with other projects in his already prominent career.

The rest of the cast is filled with familiar faces, including Jennifer Hudson and Jeffrey Wright as Steve's parents, Jennifer Ehle as the teenager's public defender, Maureen O'Brien, Tim Blake Nelson as his film teacher, Mr. Sawicki, and ASAP Rocky and John David Washington as King and Bobo, two other men accused in the same case. The film also includes Jharrel Jerome from "Moonlight" in a small role, who recently became both the youngest actor to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for "When They See Us," and the first Afro-Latino to win for acting. "Monster" has gone on quite a ride to get to Netflix, initially premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018. The movie then had a temporary name change to "All Rise," before becoming "Monster" again and making its way to the streaming platform.

If you're looking for a tense courtroom drama that explores topical themes of structural racism and the exploration of identity, "Monster," available now on Netflix, is the perfect pick.

Monster tells the story of a young Black man on trial as an accessory to murder

"Monster" follows the court proceedings in the trial against young Steve, with flashbacks showing his true character and how he got involved in the case. Steve is an honest, kind, and creative teenager, with a deep passion for filmmaking. Growing up with a relatively happy life in Harlem, Steve is certainly exposed to bad influences and opportunities to go down the wrong path, but he's smart — an honor student, in fact — and he knows the sort of future he wants for himself. He's certainly not the "monster" that the prosecuting attorney accuses him of being in the trial. "Monster" uses Steve's case to take on the preconceptions that the justice system, jury members in particular, have on Black Americans in cases such as these, where the accused are essentially guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around. 

While critics found some flaws in "Monster," there's an overwhelming consensus that the movie is effective, with the acting of Harrison Jr. and the rest of the cast making up for any other shortcomings. The movie currently has a 65% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times calling the film "provocative." He also praised the director, Anthony Mandler, and his cinematographer, David Devlin, who "nimbly switch filters to reflect various stops along the timeline." Although the filmmaking storyline can feel overdone, it works wonderfully in "Monster" to allow the film to stand out from all the other movies with similar plots and themes. 

Check out the intense trial of Steve, a young, intelligent teenager with a bright future facing a charge that could change his life forever, in "Monster" now on Netflix.