Review: ‘Breaking a Monster’ documents the fast rise of hard-rockin’ middle-schoolers Unlocking the Truth

“Breaking a Monster”
Jarad Dawkins, left, Malcolm Brickhouse and Alec Atkins of the band Unlocking the Truth in the documentary “Breaking a Monster.”
(Hillary Spera / Abramorama)

Just when you thought you had seen every permutation of the “making of a band” documentary, along comes ‘Breaking a Monster,” a thoroughly engaging portrait of Unlocking the Truth, a heavy metal outfit composed of African American middle schoolers.

Their rapid ascent from Flatbush in Brooklyn to Los Angeles, where in 2014 they signed a $1.8-million recording deal with Sony Music Entertainment, functions as an inspirational story and a cautionary coming-of-age tale about chasing dreams.

Meet Malcolm Brickhouse, Alec Atkins and Jarad Dawkins, a trio of affable seventh-graders whose taste for hard rock was informed in part through playing “Grand Theft Auto” and attending professional wrestling events.

In between their street performances and creating fantasy tour schedules, the boys were slowly but surely building their after-school career.


But when a fan uploads one of their Times Square appearances on YouTube, it captures the attention of septuagenarian producer/manager Alan Sacks, whose claims to fame include co-creating “Welcome Back, Kotter” and guiding the careers of the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato.

Suddenly, the 13-year-olds are thrust into marketing meetings filled with stylists and vocal coaches — lead Malcolm might play like a bad ass but his prepubescent voice doesn’t exactly register Marilyn Manson — while hustling to write songs for their upcoming Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival gig.

Director Luke Meyer maintains an unflinchingly unobtrusive presence recording a tumultuous year in Unlocking the Truth’s formidable life, while still leaving you with the hope that Malcolm, Alec and Jarad won’t get pulled into that churning vortex of fame that has swallowed up so many before them.



‘Breaking a Monster’


 Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

 Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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