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Monster's Ball (2001)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
Director:
Marc Forster Marc Forster
Starring:
Billy Bob Thornton Billy Bob Thornton
Taylor Simpson Taylor Simpson
Gabrielle Witcher Gabrielle Witcher
Heath Ledger Heath Ledger
Amber Rules Amber Rules

6.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Drama, Melodrama, Psychological Drama, Romantic Drama
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Review by Chad
Added: August 25, 2004
Hank Grotowski and his son Sonny are corrections officers at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, working in the death row section of the building. The job is a sort of family tradition, as Hank's father Buck also worked this job before emphysema forced him to retire. Letitia Musgrove and her son Tyrell are visiting her husband and his father Lawrence, who has been sentenced to die tomorrow. She tells him her troubles, about how her car is breaking down and she can't afford to pay the bills for the house anymore. We flip back over to Hank and Sonny, who have set up shop in a bar with a few of their fellow officers. Lawrence will be the first man executed since Sonny joined the police ranks, and Hank is going over the routine of how things work to him and how he can't screw anything up when a man is about to die. The fateful night arrives where Lawrence is set to die by the electric chair, and while the officers are walking him to the chair, Sonny breaks away from the group and pukes. Later, Hank confronts Sonny about this, telling him he fucked up Lawrence's last night alive, and they get into a fist-fight over it. The next morning, Hank yanks Sonny out of the bed and starts yelling at him, but Sonny grabs a gun and starts threatening Hank with it. He asks Hank if he hates him, and Hank says yes he does. Sonny tells him that he'd always loved him, and kills himself. This screws Hank up pretty badly, who goes on to quit the force and change his life up, starting with picking up a lady in need of help on the side of the road... that lady being Letitia. Romance ensues, their respective pasts pop into play, and things just get better and better as the movie wears on.

This was a great little romance / drama film, which really shocked me with the quality of how things were done. The storyline is excellent, and keeps things from getting too boring as most romances tend to do with me. It never really lingers on one thing for too long, and keeps throwing out new twists throughout the running-time in order to keep you interested in it. The movie runs for just shy of two hours, and I never found myself checking out how much time was left on it, as the time seemed to just shoot right on by. This normally isn't my type of movie, but I'm quite glad that I decided to watch it with the old lady, as it was definitely a good one.

The cast here is what made me a wee bit weary of checking it out in the beginning. We have Billy Bob Thornton in the lead role of Hank, but he handled the role of a man trying to make up for his past mistakes quite well. He was very realistic and convincing in the part, which was a shocker to me. Halle Berry plays the other lead role of the down-on-her-luck Letitia, and does a fantastic job of it; again, another shocker. While I've not seen too many of Halle's films, the roles I have seen her in have been mediocre at best; I've never seen her give a truly horrid performance, but I'd never seen her do anything memorable either. This one definitely changed all that, as her performance here was pretty damned convincing and indeed, this one was memorable. Heath Ledger plays Hank's son Sonny, and while he doesn't get a whole lot of on-screen time, he does decent enough with the role. Nothing too special from him, but nothing to bitch about either. Peter Boyle plays Hank's racist father Buck, and comes away as the star of the show here with his performance. He definitely knew how to play the audience against him with his remarks and mannerisms, which made for one grand scene after another. Puff Daddy / P. Diddy / Sean Combs also has a small role here as Lawrence, and while he wasn't fantastic or anything, he did come off much better than I'd expected going in. Great cast, overall.

Overall, definitely worth the viewing. I was a bit put-off by the romance / drama label as I'm sure a few other people would be, but I'm quite glad I gave this one a chance. It was definitely worth the time, and for that, I dub it with a 9/10.
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