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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

Monster's Ball
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by EricDSnider

"Too slow? Yes. But brilliantly acted and rich with nuance."
5 stars

"Monster's Ball" is about very different strangers brought together by fate, though that time-worn plot device doesn't begin to do justice to the complexity of this emotionally rich film.

In fact, none of what the film is "about" can adequately be explained just by describing it. It's about racism, yes, and breaking off from poisonous family traditions, and the death penalty, and a thousand other things that have been dealt with already in other movies. But through Marc Forster's slow, dreamily paced direction, Milo Addica and Will Rokos' clear, simple script and -- especially -- Oscar-caliber acting from Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, this film made of old parts seems as fresh and alive as if every one of its ideas were brand-new.

It is set in Georgia, a place with a long history of deeply felt racism. Hank Grotowski (Thornton) has inherited this from his now-decrepit father (Peter Boyle), but the hate seems to be watered down with each generation: Hank only seems to mirror his father's attitudes, enacting them out of habit more than out of genuine belief in them, and Hank's grown son (Heath Ledger) hasn't got any of it at all.

Sonny, as he is called, is a disappointment in other ways, too. Old Buck and Hank both were correction officers, and Sonny -- as profoundly unhappy as any film character you'll see -- has tried to carry on the rugged family tradition. But he is not cut out for such brutal work as overseeing executions, and Buck and Hank consider him weak.

Among those to be executed under Hank's watch is Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs), the husband of Letitia (Berry), who has lost any love she ever had for her murderous spouse. She barely notes his death, though the film does not flinch for a moment in depicting his visit to the electric chair.

Circumstances cause Letitia to be acquainted with Hank -- the man who flipped the switch on her husband -- and an unlikely bond develops between them. They have in common a great deal of familial pain, not to mention violent tempers. "Monster's Ball" becomes the story of how two such coarse, flawed people can refine one another into something workable.

This is by and large a quiet movie, with very little musical underscoring and not a bit of flashiness. Forster is confident enough in his script and actors, as well he should be, and is content to let them shine.

The inevitable discovery by Letitia that her new boyfriend was her husband's executioner is dealt with so admirably, I wanted to stand up and applaud. When I think of the melodrama that could have resulted, and ponder how this film turned it into something beautiful and life-affirming instead, it makes me hopeful about the intelligence and depth motion pictures can convey. It doesn't need to be cheap and easy to win an audience; moviegoers like it when movies assume a certain level of maturity in them.

Much has been made of Thornton's and Berry's performances, and with good reason. Thornton's Hank is a closed-off man, reminiscent of his work in "The Man Who Wasn't There," in which he also played a working-class guy with no access to his own emotions. Berry plays Letitia with marvelous insight and realism, giving the impression we are watching not an actress but a real person.

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originally posted: 02/23/02 07:54:37
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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 Barøn 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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