Billy Bob Thornton is a Death Row prison guard and a second-generation racist. (First-generation, his father Peter Boyle, third-generation — the weak link — his son Heath Ledger.)His son commits suicide and suddenly it sends a message reverberating through the Red Neck. The timing is right, too, when he is called upon in order to help a young black woman (Halle Berry), whose husband Thornton had not long ago strapped into “the chair.” In seeing life and people from a new perspective, he accepts her (agrees to “take care of her” and “make her feel good”!!!), and lets happen what is bound to come. What makes Monster’s Ball compelling to see are most of all the two lead performances. It has come to the point where I don’t expect much less from Thornton. Berry’s sudden bid to be taken seriously is not surprising, but neither is it well-founded. The movie is Thornton’s before it is hers, but during her laps she maintains to hold the baton in a prominent and steadfast position. Swiss-born, first-time director Marc Forster refrains from most ostentatious behind-the-camera trickery. The attention he garners is more for the cryptic framing techniques he utilizes — i.e., the juxtaposition of a person’s reflection in mirrors, largely distorting their features. If there actually seemed like there was a point to that (as well as the unsubtle symbolism during the sex scene, in which a hand is reaching for a bird in its cage), one might have been able to muster up a compliment. But at the least I can say it’s blindly recognizable. My qualms were within the movie’s mixed-message and rate of development (pure overdrive): that sex solves everything. Thornton’s character was too starchy and set in his ways, beliefs, lifestyle to so suddenly have this epiphany. It was hard enough to believe he would have one at all, but that fast? The racist has sex with a black woman once and comes to the conclusion that sex is sex and people are people no matter what color, race, religion. It is suggested that he has an apostasy from all his biases and prejudices overnight, and in the real world, that does not happen as such. Things take time; conditioning sets in or is undone slowly.
With Coronji Calhoun, Sean Combs and Mos Def.[Worth-seeing.]