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Movie Reviews

Monster's Ball  
Billy Bob Thornton, Hally Berry, Peter Boyle, Heath Legder, Sean 'Puffy' Combes
Written by Milo Addica
Directed by Marc Forster

Rating: R

Trailer: Windows Media Low | Med | High

Set in the rural South, “Monster’s Ball” uncovers the deep-rooted prejudice that still lingers to this very day. However, despite the infuriating display of hatred by some of its characters, a very effective romance between a white man and a black woman takes shape. In what could be the most fascinating love story of the year, “Monster’s Ball” does not opt to be a cry for liberalism, but rather it is a film that attempts to explore the mysteries of the heart.

Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) is a correctional officer at a local penitentiary. His job entails keeping a close monitor of the inmates, as well as making sure that peace and order are maintained at the facility. However, Hank’s personal life and relationships are far from being unruffled. Raised under a bigoted household run by his father Buck (Peter Boyle), Hank has been instilled with being prejudiced against blacks. Although not as big of a racist as his father, Hank has learned to hold his thoughts on the matter to himself as work brings him in contact with an integrated society. His only son Sonny (Heath Ledger), on the other hand, does not hold the same disposition, and Hank and his father consider him to be “weak”. Hank’s relationship with his son can best be described as aloofly abusive. Then one day, the Grotowski’s are hit by a tragedy, and Hank is forced to evaluate his life.

On the other side of town, Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry) takes her young son to the penitentiary where her husband will be executed later that night. Quite a downtrodden life considering her other problems: an overweight son, an overheated car, an eviction notice and impending unemployment. Leticia’s days are marked with struggles, but she refuses to give up. Then one day, tragedy hits home.

It is through these misfortunes that Hank and Leticia’s paths cross, and the romance that ensues becomes the backbone of “Monster’s Ball”.

Like I mentioned earlier, the film never steps up to the pulpit and sermons about the evil of racism. This is not the objective of “Monster’s Ball”. Rather it uses the prejudice to set up the extreme disparity between Hank and Leticia; two people separated by societal standards, but united through personal losses. It is a touching and unpretentious story. We never quite understand the reasons for some of the film’s happenings, but so is the unpredictability of human nature.

Of course, another highlight of “Monster’s Ball” are the leading performances of Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry. They opened the race for all the year-end awards by winning the National Board of Reviews’ honors for Best Actor and Best Actress early in December. Talk about a one-two punch. Billy Bob Thornton gives a great performance for a very demanding role. Although not as muted as his character in the Coen brothers’ “The Man Who Wasn’t There”, Thornton still presents us with an intriguing character; cold yet sympathetic. The same goes for Halle Berry, who delivers her best performance yet. By tackling one of the year’s most powerful roles, Berry has proven that she has more than a pretty face to offer cinema. I hope that the Academy voters take note of these two for their work, but “Monster’s Ball” might be a bit too obscure for them to remember. Also, Thornton’s two powerhouse performances this year might end up canceling each other out.

There are some scenes in the movie that are a bit too long and could have been edited out, hindering the film’s progression, but nevertheless, “Monster’s Ball” is a refreshing love/human story devoid of clichés and powered by emotion.

Film is Rated R for strong sexual content, language and violence.

RATING: 3 1/2 out of 5

Reviewed by Mazzyboi
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