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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 MP Bartley

"Lots of noise about very little."
2 stars

When Halle Berry picked up the best actress Oscar in 2002 there was a lot of muttering from those interested in such things that she'd won simply because she was black. It was seen as the Academy being at it's most heavy-handed and pc. What no-one seemed to discuss was the fact that she shouldn't have won full stop. The colour of her skin doesn't come into it. The fact that she's at best ordinary, in a dull and dishonest melodrama, should have been what people were talking about.

Halle Berry is Letitia, a struggling waitress in a small, run-down Georgian town. She's struggling because her husband Laurence (Sean 'Puff Daddy 'P Diddy' Coombs) is on death row, leaving her on her own to bring up her heavily over-weight son. Laurence is about to be executed by the father-and-son team of Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) and Sonny (Heath Ledger). Despite working and living together they have far from a happy life, also living with Hank's overtly racist father (Peter Boyle). The only thing Hank and Sonny have in common apart from their jobs is the same prostitute they both use.

Without revealing too much of the plot, Letitia and Hank are thrown together by seperate tragedies and both are forced to face up to harsh home truths in their own lives. Marc Forster's debut here certainly wants to deal with some heavy topics, but ultimately he doesn't have the courage of is convictions and wimps out when he should be going for the throat.

First things first, 'Monster's Ball' (the title refers to a condemned mans last night alive) is a depressing flick. Very depressing. And I'm fine with that. I have no problem having a good wallow in a downer. 'House of Sand and Fog', 'Raging Bull' for example...not flicks to cheer you up, but damn solid stuff and enjoyable with it. Unfortunately 'Monster's Ball' is nothing but depressing. It seems to think that putting its characters through the mincer and then spitting them out the other side is enough to create interest and to make us think that there's something going on beneath the surface. There's not however, and that's the most depressing thing of all.

Forster is aiming for controversy by having a widow start an affair with her husbands executioner. But when he has a chance to let this revelation explode over the screen...he wimps out. He's too cowardly to think about the ramifications of this situation and trys to trick the audience into solving it for him. Sorry fella, but that's not going to work. Don't ask the audience to do your work for you. This isn't a case of asking the audience to think for themselves, it's a case of asking the audience to think for the director. And that's dishonest, prompting questions he has no answer for himself. The same could be said for the racist father figure. Brilliantly played by Boyle, he's a malignant maggot at the centre of his family's rotting corpse, but his relationship to Hank is ill-defined. There's hints that Hanks shares his racism more by default than by design, but again when this racism could be confronted head-on with Letitia...nothing comes of it and nothing is said of it. So Hank shoots guns at black children to frighten them away but then goes to a black mechanic to get his car fixed so he isn't racist? Please, the area of racism is far more complex than that.

This lack of definition is also clear with Hank and Sonny. There's little insight into their troubled relationship and the involvement of their mother, but that's ok. They're troubled and that's all you need to know.

The cast have a hard time getting anything out of this ill-thought out script. I've mentioned Boyle and it should also be mentioned that Thornton does excellent work. An unpleasant man, Thornton still manages to make you sympathise, if not overly care, for his plight. He's a man only finding solace with a bowl of chocolate ice-cream. Poignant, but hardly deep like it would like to think it is.
Ledger also struggles with a thin role and just adds to the confusion of the character. If he's not sure of what the character's about, how are we supposed to know?

And then there's Halle Berry. It's impossible to lay aside the controversy of her Oscar win, because simply put, she's at best average here. She has two faces: depressed and crying and she milks them both here, but to little effect. There's no insight to her character and worse still, little sympathy. Incredible as it sounds considering her family is ripped apart, but Berry is simply incapable of making you care for her. A scene where she cries about her sons eating habits to Hank should be her Oscar clip, but is simply dreadful and embarrassing.

With these performances and light-weight script around him, you have to feel for someone so obviously superior to all of this like Thornton. The film may make a lot of noises about the death sentence, family brutality and ingrained racism, but that's all it is - noise. A few convenient and topical pegs to hang a not very interesting story on.

The ending of 'Monster's Ball' is trying for a moral conundrum and to make a message out of what it doesn't say rather than what it does say. However, due to a weak script and a weak central performance by Berry when it's not saying anything the film REALLY isn't saying anything, which is a consistent problem the film has. Some people may say 'Monster's Ball' is a a weighty drama about damaged people coming together who shouldn't be coming together. But I say it's all just blah.

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originally posted: 06/23/04 01:15:38
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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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