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Monster's Ball

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Monster's Ball

Starring: Billy Bob Thorton, Halle Berry
Director: Marc Forster
Rated: R
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: December 2001
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle, Sean Puffy Combs, Mos Def

Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

Memorable performance are what distinguishes this dark, dismal drama about racism, brutality and family violence. Peter Boyle, Billy Bob Thornton and Heath Ledger play three generations of Georgia Penitentiary officers. The ailing, aging patriarch, Boyle, is a blunt, cruel bigot, while the sensitive, young Ledger despises his job. Macho Thornton is in charge of Death Row, specifically the execution of a condemned cop killer (Sean Combs) who leaves behind a waitress wife - that's Halle Berry - and obese young son (Coronji Calhoun) who is terrified he'll grow up 'bad' like his father. The colloquial title refers to the electrocution ritual, minus a lawyer or minister. Billy Bob and Halle eventually meet at a local diner, but she has no idea what part he played in her husband's demise. Despite the outspoken racial prejudice that he demonstrates early in the film, an unlikely romantic attraction quickly develops between them. She's lost her husband, job, home and car - and he becomes her protector/lover. Both Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry exude vulnerability, delivering restrained yet raw, bravura performances. Writers Will Rokos & Milo Addica and Swiss-born director Marc Forster, concentrate on the pithy, simplistic dialogue that counterpoints the gritty, complicated situations, involving anger and redemption, that evoke emotion, rather than action. This is evident by cinematographer Roberto Schaefer's deliberate close-ups of each character's stark, angst-ridden face. Yet the audience is keenly aware that a bleak, devastating twist of discovery dangles there until the story's conclusion, a situation reminiscent of "Message in a Bottle." On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Monster's Ball" is a serious, slow-moving, subtle 7, aimed specifically at arthouse audiences.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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