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Lions Gate
Official Site
Director: Marc Forster
Producer: Milo Addica, Lee Daniels, Will Rokos, Eric Kopeloff
Written by: Milo Addica & Will Rokos
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Heath Ledger

Rating: out of 5

MONSTER’S BALL is an Acadamy Award machine by Lions Gate Films. The formula is there—heavy drama accompanied by a strong romantic element. Unfortunately, the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts and MONSTER’S BALL fails to attain the lofty goals it has set for itself.

The movie opens with Hank (Thornton) who, like his father (Boyle) before him, is a state corrections officer. We soon realize that Hank is a mean person with no love for anyone, least of all his son (Ledger). The first act of the movie explores Hank’s life, especially the execution of one Lawrence Musgrove (Combs), who negates any ambivalence over the death penalty by proclaiming himself to be a “bad man.” During these proceedings we are introduced to Musgrove’s wife Leticia (Berry), who is falling on very hard times.

Not long after the execution, Hank suffers a terrible tragedy and decides to reconsider the harsh life he leads. He coincidentally meets up with Leticia, who has suffered a similar misfortune and, in a night of heavy drinking, the two get more intimately acquainted. After this the movie becomes a simple romance, asking if love can succeed despite the cultural and ethnic barriers between them.

The cast gave engaging performances across the board. Billy Bob Thornton’s Hank was a quiet, simple man though more mean and less quiet than the character he portrayed in THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE. Halle Berry spends too much of the movie screaming or crying. While the behavior was appropriate it does get old the third or fourth time. Peter Boyle plays unrepentant scum very convincingly, preventing his character from becoming a plot device. Heath Ledger acquits himself nicely, maintaining a consistent accent throughout his entire performance.

This was a decent attempt at making an Acadamy Award-winning movie, but nothing about it is truly exceptional. The pacing is a little off. The execution sequence takes up too much time, offering no real plot motivation or character development. Thirty or forty minutes go by before Hank and Leticia even meet. Make no mistake, this is drama with the emphasis on heavy drama. The characters have a high propensity for cursing and screaming. Often the camera will linger on their faces while nothing is going, providing the cast ample opportunity to emote. Some of us will emerge from the theater having seen a powerful testament of love conquering all; others of us will have seen Halle Berry naked.

—Woodrow Bogucki

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

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It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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