January 19, 2018

ShowbuzzDaily Sundance Film Festival Reviews: “Blindspotting” & “Monsters and Men”


BLINDSPOTTING (no distrib):  At Sundance, often one doesn’t seek perfection so much as promise, and there’s plenty of the latter in Blindspotting, written by its stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal.  They have a lot on their minds, from the gentrification of Oakland to police shootings of unarmed black men to the dynamics of interracial male friendship, and it may fairly be said that it’s more than they can comfortably handle–the film’s climax will seem inspired to some, but for me it was gimmicky and forced.  At times the script draws pictures, circles them, then points so that no one in the audience can possibly miss their message.  Still, at its best Blindspotting practically bursts off the screen, accommodating both hilarity and deadly tension.  The basic components of the bond between Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal) are familiar from as far back as Mean Streets and beyond:  the one pal trying to go straight, and the other a troublemaker who might pull him down.  But Diggs and Casal, along with first-time director Carlos Lopez Estrada, give almost every scene a bounce of humor or oddness.  Like their characters, as writers Diggs and Casal need to work on their rough edges.  Blindspotting is nevertheless a fine calling card that suggests there’s better work to come.

MONSTERS AND MEN (no distrib):  Reinaldo Marcus Green’s first feature is also about an unjustified police shooting (in Bed-Stuy this time), and he approaches the subject it a much more solemn and straightforward manner.  Monsters and Men tells its story as three vignettes about men affected by the killing:  the guy who captured the events on his cellphone camera (Anthony Ramos), a black cop with divided loyalties (John David Washington), and a promising young local athlete (Kelvin Harrison Jr).  All three are torn apart by what’s happened in their neighborhood, and each must decide what his moral duty is.  The lead actors are excellent, and moments in each tale are moving and provocative.  But the format, squeezing all three stories into 100 minutes, doesn’t allow for a great deal of depth beyond each character’s point of view about the central event, and Green doesn’t seem to have been interested in introducing much variation in style among the episodes.  The result is worthy, but memorable less for its filmmaking than for its seriousness of purpose.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."