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Tomatometer®reviews counted: 26see all Monster's Ball reviews
Top Critic Reviews
Fresh: A textbook example of fearless filmmaking, exhibiting a brand of gritty realism that's hard to watch but impossible to ignore.
- Bill Muller, Arizona Republic, Monday, March 4, 2002
Fresh: The low-key performances by Thornton and Berry are so deeply felt that you feel like a cell mate in their emotional prisons.
- Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer, Thursday, February 7, 2002
"A lifetime of change can happen in a single moment." After a family tragedy, a racist prison guard reexamines his attitudes while falling in love with the African American wife of the last prisoner he executed. REVIEW Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton do an outstanding job in this opulently photographed chronicle of generational hatred. The entire supporting cast is rock solid, including Peter Boyle as the bilious, crumbling paterfamilias who gets his just desserts. If there is anything wrong with the movie it is in its lack of foundation for the rapid shelving of entrenched attitudes, as well as instant intoxication from a nip of Jack Daniels and its almost overdone cleverness. A little suspension of disbelief is needed, but this film is merciful salvation from the endless procession of sappy or exploding car movies. The viewer is rewarded with a realistic and honest ending.
- LorenzoVonMatterhorn, Wednesday, April 8, 2009
"I've always believed that a portrait captures a person far better than a photograph. It truly takes a human being to really see a human being." Simply put, Monster's Ball is one hell of an outstanding movie. Marc Forster's direction is first-rate, the script is meticulous, and there's superb acting right down the line. The story conveyed by this hauntingly compelling masterpiece cannot be easily swallowed. This is a powerful and poignant movie not merely about racism and redemption (as one might initially presume), but about one of the most urgent and unanimous of human desires - that of finding solace for anguish and solitude. Brutal, riveting and brilliant - Monster's Ball daringly strides into territory seldom explored by usual contemporary motion pictures. The film is emotive and provocative, and relentlessly delivers a message about life in the American South. The title of Monster's Ball is a term that was used in 19th century Europe to describe a night of feasting traditionally had for a condemned prisoner the night before he or she was to be executed. The title may seem confusing, but if one understands what the term means in the context of the film's plot, it makes sense. Hank Grotowski (Thornton) is a soft-spoken, embittered Georgian prison guard in charge of the Monster's Ball: he organises a condemned prisoner's last rites and final evening. Hank lives with his openly racist redneck father Buck (Boyle). His offspring Sonny (Ledger) also works at the local prison and has been caught in his family's passionate racism, which he tries to stand against. Sonny's job at the prison is purely due to the expectancy to carry on family tradition. Hank's final execution is that of prisoner Lawrence Musgrove (Combs). Following this, a family tragedy occurs and Hank feels mentally unfit to continue working at the prison. By chance he meets young African-America woman Leticia (Berry) and they form and unpredictably intimate bond. Leticia was the wife of the last man Hank executed, but both of them are initially none the wiser. Monster's Ball is artful and solemn, magnanimous and atmospheric. It's inlaid with wordless scenes accumulated to produce a mosaic of meaningfulness about life in the American South and the possibility of redemption through love. Its message is conveyed effectively and relentlessly. There is never any reluctance to display gratuitous racism or sex. The controversial sex scene in particular between Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry is graphic and explicit...almost pornographic material. It's these scenes, along with several others, that create an engaging hook to compellingly reel in a viewer for the (approximately) 110-minute duration. The film is supported by a stellar screenplay. The film's sole negatives are in the script, though. Most of the character behaviour seems forced and ludicrous. The sex scene, although tastefully done, never seems to have much of a purpose. An emotionally vulnerable black woman would not seek comfort in a man she barely knows. Probably a feature to reveal her character, but it seems very sudden and difficult to buy. Despite this, the film is an incredible experience. There are admirably unconventional and unsentimental moments included in the script. Leticia and Hank never profess undying love for each other. In fact, there never seems to be any love included: it's all lust. "Make me feel good!" Leticia pleads Hank before forcing him into the nitty gritty. The characters never feel good per se, but they do feel better. The film does not end with any clichs. The love interests don't ride off into the sunset together or live happily ever after. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest the two will be together very long. As an alternative the film concludes on a beautiful note of ambiguity...and perhaps a glimmer of hope. With each film, Billy Bob Thornton continues to convince me that he's one of the finest actors working today. He's a true filmic chameleon who brings life and adequate realism into every single role he portrays. It's impossible to overlook his amazing performances. Be it A Simple Plan, Bad Santa, Sling Blade or Bandits - Thornton's acting skills are sensational. His character of Hank Grotowski is a quintessential Thorntonian. Never does he put a foot wrong. Halle Berry's acceptance speech at the Oscars forever sits badly in my stomach. She pretty much embarrassed herself in front of the millions of viewers. Despite this opinion, Halle deserved her Oscar for portraying a character with such emotional depth. It's a shame her character was cheapened by the unnecessary sex scene, but nevertheless her acting is incredible. No matter what situation she's been placed into, Halle can do wonders with her character. Heath Ledger (R.I.P.) is used for an unfortunately short duration. In spite of this, Ledger gives his character depth and motivation. He abhors the racism ripening in those he usually looks up to. His character feels horrible about being forced to dish out capital punishment, and this is palpable in Ledger's emotions. His character is also reduced to "relieving" himself with a prostitute to escape his awful life. It's a shame the actor died so young. A promising career would have been ahead of him. Peter Boyle takes a shocking career turn as the racist grandfather. For years I've seen Boyle as the hysterically witty grandpa in Everybody Loves Raymond. Surprisingly, Boyle pulls off this serious role admirably. Overall, Monster's Ball is a challenging, stimulating and confronting drama that shows the ugly side of humanity with stark realism. Suicide, capital punishment, graphic sex and racist slurs are among the contents of this unforgettable production. Said contents are not sugar-coated in any way. The gripping screenplay and Marc Forster's transcendent direction "tells it like it is". As a result the film is an intense, emotionally-wrenching and powerfully affecting experience that requires dedication and attention. Superb performances permeate the proceedings, adding density, depth and feeling to the hard-nosed drama. It may seem dour on the surface and some features of the script are ridiculous...however the film conveys an unsentimental, expressive, achingly eloquent and affirming story of transformation and hope.
- PvtCaboose91, Saturday, September 27, 2008