December 2001
Monster's Ball

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Monster's Ball

Distributor:Lions Gate Films Corporation
Director:Marc Forster
Producer:Lee Daniels
Screenwriters:Milo Addica & Will Rokos
Cast:Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, Peter Boyle, Heath Ledger, Sean Combs, Coronji Calhoun, Mos Def
Running Time:108 min

Life is never an easy game to play with. Where you are, where you live, and what you do determines your outcome. For some, it may be filled with happiness, and for others, despair sets the tone. In Monster's Ball, the consequence of one brings together the lives of two tormented souls. Every issue from racism, love and family is examined in this film filled with intrigue. The performances of Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton electrify the screen with a good chemistry between them. "Monster's Ball" is one of the most satisfying and emotional movies of the year.

Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) is a second-generation corrections officer taking care of his aging and ailing father (Peter Boyle) while his son Sonny (Heath Ledger) follows him in the same occupation, keeping the lineage unbroken. In the eyes of some, Hank is a good man for he does his job well and treats his fellow workers accordingly. For others, Hank is a racist, just like his father. His treatment of blacks is of question for his father taught him to be this way. Part of Hank's job is preparing the death sentence of death row inmates, particularly Lawrence Musgrove, whose time has come up. After 11 years of waiting and suffering, Lawrence's wife Leticia (Halle Berry) and son Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun) come to see him one last time. Leticia hasn't had an easy time dealing with this as she reared Tyrell, who's too obese for his age, on her own with little money her herself or the house she's about to lose. For Sonny, his first assignment is to pull the switch on Lawrence. He chokes when it's time to do so and Hanks ridicules him in front of his fellow officers. Through a series of consequences and tragedies, Hank and Leticia meet at a diner. This is only at the beginning for to say more ruins the suspense.

This film works on so many levels, particularly the script. Milo Addica and Will Rokos have done a good job in staying from clichés and emotional manipulation. They have brought in a level of intrigue and suspense that hasn't been seen the "The Sixth Sense"(but not of the that kind). Thorton, who's becoming a household name with his chameleon like appearance in films, resonates his role with authority. He's not as flashy as in the other roles he's had of late (Bandits, The Man Who Wasn't There). Peter Boyle and Heath Ledger stand out in their small roles for it's their characters' actions that create the impact in Hank's life. Coronji Calhoun was excellent as the boy who takes the insult Halle's character lashes at him. This is his first role and he made it credible. Sean Combs has small turn but a good one at that. Considering the level he's at in the music and fashion industries, for him to make it in the film world, taking a small role like this is a great step in the right direction. The heart and soul of the film is Berry. She holds the film together with her strength and believability in the character she plays. SHE WILL BE NOMINATED COME OSCAR TIME. Her performance matches Thorton's, and takes her acting range to a new depth. People will no doubt talk about the "sex scene", but it's her performance that will stand out on top. For director Marc Forster, he has crafted one of the most intriguing and debatable films of the year.


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