Monster's Ball


Action / Drama / Romance


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February 24, 2016 at 10:16 PM



Heath Ledger as Sonny Grotowski
Billy Bob Thornton as Hank Grotowski
Halle Berry as Leticia Musgrove
Yasiin Bey as Ryrus Cooper
720p 1080p
814.29 MB
24 fps
1hr 51 min
P/S 10 / 28
1.69 GB
24 fps
1hr 51 min
P/S 8 / 18

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Blake French ([email protected]) 10 / 10

A harrowing, daring film. One of the year's best. **** (out of four)

MONSTER'S BALL / (2001) **** (out of four)

When I finish reading a great book, I don't close it right away. Treasuring the story's emotional grasp, I just sit there and hold it for a minute, enthralled, sensing the character's lives are continuing even as I put the book away.

"Monster's Ball" is a similar experience. The film contains so much truth, vigor, and so many harrowing moments, I just stared at the screen through the ending credits. Even after a second viewing the conviction did not diminish. It really says something about a movie when you know what happens and you're equally as mesmerized every time you watch it.

Most movies about depravity are really about entertainment, but director Marc Forster avoids preachy speeches, big sappy moments, and melodramatic music. Even during the movie's most important scenes, Forster does not overplay the material. He knows that careful, quiet dialogue, and long, silent pauses speak louder than lengthy emotional summaries.

Consider a scene where a character checks his father into an old folk's home. It does not feature long good-byes or conclusive hugs. Instead, it projects unflinching, raw emotion. "You must love him very much," reassures an attendant to the character who replies, "No I don't, but he is my father…"

The character, Hank, is played by Billy Bob Thornton, who makes his Academy Award-winning performance in "Sling Blade" look like SNL material. Hank, bitter and racist, lives in a Southern country house with his son, Sonny (Heath Ledger), and father (Peter Boyle).

Hank and Sonny work as prison guards on death row. Sonny desperately wants out of the family business, especially after an unpleasant emotional reaction to the latest execution. When Hank explodes at him for his mistake, Sonny teaches his father a lesson he will never forget.

The film eventually becomes a story about the relationship between Hank and the widow of the man he has just executed. She's played by Halle Barry, who was paid an extra one-million dollars for doing an extended sex scene completely nude. This is a gradual, yet sudden relationship that is not based on physical attraction or love, but emotional need and depravity.

Forster makes interesting editing choices. During certain scenes, he cuts back and forth between separate occurrences while the central action fills the soundtrack. Especially unique is how he handles a sex scene. While two characters engage in some of the most graphic stimulated sex of last year, Forster flashes images of a caged bird before us. A metaphor of shattered innocence or repressed emotion, perhaps?

Actually, Forster fills "Monster's Ball" with metaphors, including the title itself. He even includes a moving soundtrack of timid rhythms and sudden beats, symbolizing the characters complex states of mind. Forster's haunting, daring feature reminds us why we all love the movies.

Reviewed by jhclues 10 / 10

Extraordinary Performances by Berry and Thornton

It's very rare, but occasionally a film comes along that plays out so realistically that it doesn't even seem like you're watching a movie, but participating-- albeit as an observer-- in this particular drama of life that is unfolding around you. And so it is with `Monster's Ball,' a riveting film, directed by Marc Forster, that is so real it transcends entertainment and becomes a voyeuristic experience that leaves you with the sense that you've been through everything that's happened yourself. It's a thought provoking examination of relationships and perspectives, including the ingrained, subjective attitudes-- especially prejudices-- that have such a profound and lasting affect on our lives, as well as the lives of those around us. It's a film that says so much about the way we respond to one another, as well as certain situations, and why; in short, it's about the world that we, as a society, have created and must live in together-- right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. And at the heart of the story is a message that rings through loud and true; a perception that we can do better-- and must-- if we are to survive as a civilized, dignified and progressive species. In the final analysis, we are, all of us, members of the family of Man; and it's time we realize and acknowledge it.

After eleven years on death row at a Georgia State Penitentiary, Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs) is out of appeals and is headed for the electric chair. There to make their final visit is Musgrove's wife, Leticia (Halle Berry), and their son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun), while veteran corrections officer Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) oversees the proceedings. Also on hand is third-generation corrections officer Sonny Grotowski (Heath Ledger), who during Musgrove's final walk discovers he doesn't have the stomach required to perform his duties, which will later create some conflict with his father.

Bigotry, it seems, is something of a family trait; Hank's father, Buck (Peter Boyle), a retired corrections officer, is the product of a time when African Americans `knew their place.' But it's an attitude that's apparently become somewhat watered down in his family from one generation to the next. Hank seems almost indifferent, even apathetic, when it comes to race, though under stress, especially, he defers to his father's views. Sonny, however, has a mind of his own, and by nature is more willing to embrace all of the myriad and diverse aspects of life as he sees it. And with the three generations of Grotowski men living under one roof, needless to say, there is more than some tension in the household, which inevitably leads to tragedy.

Leticia, meanwhile, is riding a downward spiral in her own life, attempting to cope with both her husband's situation and a problem with her son, while having to make a living on top of it all. And just when it seems that her world is about to fall into total collapse, circumstances bring her into contact with-- of all people-- Hank Grotowski. Call it fate, or just one of those things; but it becomes a turning point, not only in their lives, but in the lives of a number of people close to them. And very soon, for Hank and Leticia, especially, the world becomes a very different place.

Working from a screenplay by Milo Addica and Will Rokos that is intelligent, incisive and uncompromising, Forster delivers an emotionally absorbing drama that is raw, insightful and presented with a subtle intensity that is so thoroughly engrossing it becomes mesmerizing. It's a film that does not allow the viewer the luxury of casual observation or an indifferent attitude; the story is told in terms that are so brutally honest and starkly realistic that it does not provide for neutral ground or ambiguity on the part of it's audience. This is powerful drama, and Forster makes sure that everyone watching has the sense of actually being included as the story unfolds. He makes you a part of this world in which Hank, Leticia and the others live-- there's no standing on the sidelines with this one. As in real life, with this film you are confronted with situations that demand resolution and force you to make decisions.

It takes a number of elements to make a truly great film, of course, and in this one they all come together beautifully-- especially in the performances, beginning with Billy Bob Thornton, who is without question one of the best leading men/character actors in the business. He's a true chameleon who never ceases to amaze with his versatility and his ability to create believable, interesting and memorable characters, from Karl (arguably his most memorable) in `Sling Blade,' to Jacob in `A Simple Plan,' or Russell in `Pushing Tin' to Hank in this film, whom he captures with absolutely incredible subtlety and depth. It's a terrific performance, delivered with nuance and restraint, and it should have earned him an Oscar nomination, as it was clearly one of the best performances of the year.

What really takes this film to a higher level, though, is the extraordinary performance by Halle Berry as Leticia, in whom she creates a finely layered, three-dimensional character that is singularly effective and entirely believable and real. In Leticia, you will find every conceivable emotion woven around conflicts born of the definitive complexities of life, the things we all experience in one way or another at one time or another, and to which everyone will be able to relate on some level, according to personal experience. In this performance, Berry does it all and gives her all, and it's work for which she deservedly was awarded the Oscar for Best Actress. When you come away from this film, it's with the indelible images of Leticia and Hank burned into your memory, thanks to the talents of Berry, Thornton and Forster. `Monster's Ball' is compelling, unforgettable drama, and an example of filmmaking at it's best. 10/10.

Reviewed by Dan Franzen (dfranzen70) 8 / 10

Far More Than Just That Sex Scene

Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) is the middle generation of three generations of prison guards. His father Buck (Peter Boyle) is long retired and a near-invalid, using a walker and leaning on an iron lung. His son Sonny (Heath Ledger) is a novice guard. Hank and Sonny work together on Death Row and are among the guards responsible for the executions (Hank's in charge).

The first thing that strikes one about this particular group of men is the level of racism that's apparent in each one. Buck's the worst - he screams at young black kids who happen to wander onto "his" property (all three Grotowskis live together) and is liable to spout off some hateful rhetoric at any time. Hank's not a lot better, but his feelings seem tempered in contrast to Buck; he seems more weary than angry. And Sonny is actually friends with that same neighboring black family whose kids come over every now and then.

Thus the line of racism is significantly watered down as the generations progress. This is not to suggest that Sonny is an angel, or that Buck is the absolute devil. Sonny and Hank share the same hooker (though not at the same time); all three men drink, smoke, and cuss like sailors. In short, they're simply not nice folk.

While Hank and Sonny are transporting a prisoner to the electric chair, Sonny takes ill and can't continue. Because of this, the prisoner (who had bonded a little with the compassionate Sonny earlier) suffers a little during his execution. Enraged, Hank attacks his son in the locker room after the execution, and the other guards have to separate them.

That's one relationship being examined - that of Hank and Sonny. The other is the more important one, however. The widow of the executed prisoner, Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry), is trying to make ends meet as a waitress. But her car constantly dies on her, and after being late to work repeatedly, she's fired - shortly after her husband is executed. She has one overeating kid to feed, too. She does get another job as a waitress, but has to ditch the car when it dies a final time. Walking home in the rain, her son (who has to come with her; can't leave him home to binge) his hit by a car. Hank happens to be passing by, and with some reluctance (remember, he is racist, if not as bad as his father), he stops to help.

There's a wonderful dichotomy between the relationship between Leticia and her son and that between Hank and his son. Milo Addica and Will Rokos, who wrote the screenplay, weave a very effective tale that manages to keep all of the characters interesting and relevant. What makes Hank act the way he does? What are Leticia's motivations? And it would be very easy for the actors to portray the characters as nothing more than stereotypes - Hank the nasty, racist white male, and Leticia the vulnerable, victimized African American woman. But both Thornton and Berry rise above their characters' limitations - Hank's not the devil he might think he is, and Leticia isn't the angel that a lesser actress might make her out to be.

It's also worth mentioning that each of the two leads has something shocking and powerful happen to them near the beginning of the film, before they really meet. These two events have a huge impact on the characters - you might call the events "life-altering". The events allow us to see actual change in the character. Not sudden change, which can be jarring and unrealistic, but gradual, authentic, eminently believable change.

The performances by the leads are nothing short of sensational. Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress for her work here. Yes, you read right - Halle Berry. She of The Flintstones, Swordfish, and being married to David Justice fame. See, this is what happens when you give a good actress a great role. The best actresses will rise to the level of the role; the mediocre actresses will sink below it, collapsing under its weight.

Thornton has a tendency to pick offbeat, idiosyncratic roles, albeit usually with a Southern twist. His Hank is not a carbon copy of your stereotypical Dirty White Boy; he's a multilayered character with charm and evil mixed in. The film doesn't make him out to be a complete hero; just a flawed one. By the movie's end, he has come to grips (a little) with his failures and his shortcomings.

Berry and Thornton have a great supporting cast in Boyle and Ledger. When you think of a hateful, misanthropic, misogynistic demon, you don't think of Peter Boyle, who's turning in great comedic work on the TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond". But after this movie, you sure do. Great job. And Ledger - well, I know him best from The Patriot, as Mel Gibson's oldest son. In that movie, he was tough, but he was still a boy in a world of adults. That boy's grown up, and Ledger proves his mettle as an actor in this role.

There will be some who find this movie too slow; granted, if you're looking for action, this won't appeal to you. But it's an excellent story, and not as simplistic as it may seem on the outside. It's very well written (meaning that there are few plot holes), and ably directed. You may be fascinated, as I was, with the character development from beginning to end. Things are not - pardon the expression - treated as black-and-white issues; there are varying grays that are resolved and not resolved by movie's end.

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