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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30.82%
Worth A Look32.88%
Average: 12.33%
Pretty Bad: 12.33%
Total Crap: 11.64%

10 reviews, 86 user ratings

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Monster's Ball
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Contriving a fresh start"
4 stars

Monsterís Ball is a bleak, but ultimately optimistic, tale about the healing power of love. The setting is Georgia, and the principal characters are a young black widow and the racist execution warden who assists in the death of her husband.

Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) comes from a family of death row prison guards - three generations are represented in the film. Sonny (Heath Ledger), the youngest, canít bear the oppressive hatefulness of father Hank and grandfather Buck (a chair-ridden xenophobe, chillingly played by Peter Boyle). Buckís wife killed herself years before, and no one refers to Sonnyís mother.

Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry) has fallen out of love with her husband (Sean Combs), whoís been in prison for 11 years and is now on death row. She takes out her frustrations on her obese son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). Berry isnít glamorous in this film, but her Leticia works at being pretty and staying thin in spite of borderline poverty. She sees Tyrellís obesity as a condemnation of her single parenting skills.

Around the time of her husbandís execution, Leticia loses her job and receives an eviction notice. If that wasnít enough, a worse fate awaits Tyrell. Hank is first on the scene, and he gives Leticia a ride to the hospital. I was so surprised to see an act of unsolicited kindness that I checked my watch - it occurs over an hour into the film.

All this tragedy is to emphasise how love can flower in the most unexpected of places, but it feels unnecessarily contrived. First-time scriptwriters Milo Addica and Will Rokos spend the first half of the film eliminating all the obstacles to Hank and Leticiaís getting together. Even old Buck eventually gets packed off to a nursing home so Hank can start afresh. Nevertheless, the dialogue is sensitive and realistic, and director Marc Forster steadily illuminates this gloominess with a little light.

The lead performances are terrific. Thornton makes the unlikely developments of his character seem possible. Hank breaks free from his racist upbringing and learns to value women - not to mention bring Leticia to orgasm - all in a matter of weeks. His journey is inspiring, but heís playing an ideal movie character that can recognise and discard everything in his life that drags him down (his dead-end job, a lifetime of negativity at home). Thornton has to fight to keep his character grounded in reality. Berry is powerful and sensitive as the woman who gets back on her feet after losing almost everything.

Despite the contrivances and plot conveniences, Monsterís Ball works because of the convincing performances and Forsterís thoughtful direction. The film is full of surprising touches, like giving the slim Berry an obese child. The background locations also have depth; namely the diner where Leticia works, the hospital and the cheap motel where father and son Hank and Sonny engage the same prostitute.

Itís not just the incidents in the plot that make these people miserable - the negativity seeps through their whole environment. When Leticia chooses to accept Hankís love on faith, and not believe that his actions were motivated by guilt, itís a small step. But because Forster has put us in such a realistic milieu, we recognise its significance and are moved by it.

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originally posted: 05/11/02 09:57:13
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell downbeat but potent & honest 4 stars
1/24/11 Jeff Wilder Acting by Thornton and Berry is good. But overall it lacks the emotional impact it needs. 3 stars
9/26/08 Arcane Shit movie...slow as hell. Only watch if you like Halle and wanna see 'her'. 1 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome story! 5 stars
3/16/08 ladavies I think this movie is going to age well, to become an American classic. 5 stars
3/15/06 Jennifer I think this film was downright awful! 1 stars
9/08/05 bac movie isn't good at all, and the sex scene was unnecessary 1 stars
8/19/05 ES Incredibly hot sex scene wrapped in a boring, flavourless shell 2 stars
7/06/05 Pinkline Jones Berry's performance overrated as is the movie 4 stars
4/01/05 Carolyn Cherry I liked It 4 stars
3/19/05 lora mixed feelings, interesting but no sure I liked it 3 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens It was OK 3 stars
2/24/05 Dusty Johnson Loved it - Halle Berry is great! 4 stars
2/23/05 gracecchu The movie was totally not what I expected. Good, though I probably won't watch it again. 4 stars
2/20/05 Charlene Javier Billy Bob is good! 4 stars
2/20/05 abhster Halle Berry was riveting. Very raw and difficult for repeat watching. 4 stars
2/20/05 ashutitan no 5 stars
2/19/05 Denise okay 3 stars
2/19/05 Brenda Riley This one made me cry! 5 stars
2/19/05 april gupton relly creepy movie 2 stars
2/18/05 Shel Actually, I thought this movie portrayed H.B. as an actress and not just a "sex symbol" 4 stars
2/18/05 Colleen Goldrick i liked it 4 stars
2/18/05 Fahad Pinto way cool 4 stars
10/28/04 MEIRAV NORA COHEN Good acting. Sad movie 4 stars
10/01/04 Lourdes WOW 5 stars
7/17/04 Daveman This collection of promising elements unfortunately never quite amount to a unified film. 3 stars
7/13/04 Alfred Guy I don't see an award winning performance. Not even a great story. 3 stars
7/09/04 J Cadiramen This was gritty and harsh... the sex scene was powerful, if prolonged. 4 stars
7/08/04 Denise Duspiva why did she win the oscar i can't figure it out 3 stars
7/06/04 Talonsoft Boring, Way!!! overated 1 stars
6/27/04 Charlene Javier Didn't like it at first. Love it now. 5 stars
6/17/04 Future NBA player why do white people hate on outstanding beautiful black actresses? White people..get a life 5 stars
5/07/04 Ross Interesting? no, doesn't everybody have sex like that? 2 stars
1/01/04 General Lee Stoned Good beatoff material at the end.. nothing wrong with some halle soft porn 3 stars
9/11/03 Goofy Maxwell To believe anglos invite afro-am's to the "ball" out of guilt is to be the "monster". 4 stars
6/26/03 cochese Best Actress!!?? HAHAHAHAHA. Another token negro gets an oscar. 1 stars
4/19/03 kevin hot 5 stars
4/18/03 Jack Sommersby Predictable and uninsightful. Thornton is superb; Berry is sub-par 2 stars
3/12/03 Shao Kahn Go home Halle you can't act! 3 stars
2/14/03 othree honest fast pace wincing personal story leaves you to take alot for granted 4 stars
2/04/03 Drunk Love Hey Triangle Man, go suck it off Eric's "Benet", have a drink & have a Monster Ball. }> 4 stars
2/03/03 Turtle None of the characters are worth sympathizing over in this badly written, overacted trash. 1 stars
1/23/03 Pinkline Jones Zombi Holocaust was much more entertaining 1 stars
1/16/03 John Bale Powerful romantic drama with outstanding cast. Tennessy Williams would be proud. 5 stars
1/11/03 Can't stand Halle I want (sob) to thank (sob) the Academy (sob) for giving (sob) me this undeserved Oscar 1 stars
12/30/02 Femme_Fataleaa I was thoroughly dissapointed with Halle's choice of roles 2 stars
12/11/02 Ken I actually agreed with Mark Adnum. Who knew? Berry is incredible. And gorgeous. 4 stars
11/28/02 coods tuddtr 5 stars
9/11/02 Francofile Hooray - a movie that makes you think about the tough stuff. 4 stars
8/17/02 baby why would she accept such a degrating role she makes black women look bad she doesnt deserv 2 stars
8/17/02 DGaba Exceptional, Powerful, Incredable, Stunningly Excellent 5 stars
8/14/02 Bryan Brooks Why was this movie made? This has no point. 3 stars
8/12/02 Phil M. Aficionado I watched it twice in a row. It is that good. Lovingly made, tackles tough stuff head on 5 stars
7/12/02 Mark Adnum Sorry Melissa in NYC 4 stars
7/10/02 Bada Bing Crosby Movie is a mess; Oscars are now officially ruined thx to Halle's meltdown on stage 1 stars
7/01/02 Melissa in NYC Marc, your review sucks.Thanks for giving us details that ruins the movie.Fucker! 5 stars
6/24/02 Joe Hally Berry deserved her Oscar!! 5 stars
6/22/02 The Bomb69 solid film, ending left me a bit confused though 4 stars
6/21/02 Dark BarÝn Not what I expected. And that's good. 5 stars
6/15/02 CDawson Great movie! Oscar for Halle ... why? 4 stars
6/15/02 natasha set-up is hard to believe, but the payoff is still good 4 stars
5/15/02 Amazing! Not what I expected. 5 stars
4/28/02 Magnum Craphole Best movie I've seen in the theaters in quite a long time. 5 stars
4/11/02 Monster W. Kung Easily, one of the best pictures of the year. Very emotional. 5 stars
4/05/02 ^Elendil^ Feel-good movie without the sugar (or you could just read Souter's spoiler!). 4 stars
3/28/02 Natalie Stonecipher Self-redeems in love story, but abuser's abrupt reform after son's suicide a bit incredible 4 stars
3/25/02 Bernice Hamel Amazed & wept by the story & performances. s & story. Wept 5 stars
3/19/02 malcolm supremely acted by the entire cast. slow in a couple of places. 4 stars
3/15/02 Bertha Venation Ugh, a bit of a drag. Lifeless. Illogical. Best characters dead early on. 3 stars
3/12/02 spaceworm The penultimate shot (watch Halle's face) justifies - nearly too late - the Oscar hype. 4 stars
3/08/02 luigi leone stone cold 5 stars
3/02/02 JB This is my kinda movie. Not much optimism. Beautiful movie. 5 stars
2/28/02 TorontoMan Saw it last week, was a fine film for all the reasons given in Eric's review 5 stars
2/26/02 Xaver Overall, a good film. Thornton did a great job. Drunk sex scene could have been better. 4 stars
2/26/02 ownerofdajoint gutsymaterialdealtwithrealunderstandingofthestupidityofracism 5 stars
2/25/02 Georgia Getschow Only went to see Heath Ledger again. Too much nudity --nothing left to imagination. 3 stars
2/23/02 IP Freely Watching the hooker take it from behind was best part of this turd of a film. Total crap! 1 stars
2/19/02 Stephanie Extremely heavy movie. 4 stars
2/18/02 costars2 Captivating; flawless, haunting film; fab performances 5 stars
2/17/02 Gibbo Very depressing, but a powerful and deeply moving story 4 stars
2/14/02 Butterbean Puffy was excellent! But the critics praised Berry only because she did a soft porn scene 4 stars
2/13/02 Ray Charles I *WISH* I was blind 1 stars
1/09/02 Melissa in NYC Absolutely wonderful - every key actor in the film is worth gold. 5 stars
1/05/02 Jake Remarkable film. Very moving and engrossing. 5 stars
12/22/01 Tom Great FIlm like they used to have in the 70's- Greatscript-Halle/BBT /Mos D are great!!! 5 stars
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  26-Dec-2001 (R)



Directed by
  Marc Forster

Written by
  Milo Addica
  Will Rokos

  Billy Bob Thornton
  Halle Berry
  Heath Ledger
  Peter Boyle
  Sean Combs
  Mos Def

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