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Breaking a Monster 

Wednesday, Jul 20 2016
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Depending on your point of view, Luke Meyer's fly-on-the-wall documentary Breaking a Monster is either about the breakthrough and rise of a heavy metal band, or about their capture and taming. The band in question is Unlocking the Truth, comprised of three young, gifted, and black 12-year-old Brooklynites: guitarist-vocalist Malcolm Brickhouse, drummer Jarad Dawkins, and poet-philosopher-bassist Alec Atkins. After going viral on YouTube, veteran producer Alan Sacks lands them an $1.8 million contract with Sony, and there their troubles begin. Though they get to play Coachella and SXSW, they're quickly worn down by the legal talk and endless brand-development meetings intended to mold them into machine-ready cogs — significantly, the frequent verbiage is that they were "hired by" Sony, not "signed to" — but being kids who are about their band and not their brand, they'd rather play Grand Theft Auto than participate in yet another soul-crushing business meeting. Malcolm is particularly conscious that Sony is exploiting the novelty of their age and ethnicity, and we do see Unlocking the Truth embraced by the lily-white metal crowd in a way that Jada Pinkett-Smith's unfairly maligned band Wicked Wisdom was not. Breaking a Monster is simultaneously uplifting and depressing, and if it lacks a third act, it's only because Unlocking the Truth's story is still playing in the real world.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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