Directed by Marc Forster.
Written by Milo Addica and Will Rokos.
Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle and Heath
Release Year: 2001
Review Date: 1/26/02
Continuing the hunt for films that were
released in 2001 but went wide in 2002, "Monster's Ball" was near
the top of the list for me. Finally, this film hit San Francisco on
Friday and I was sure to check it out.
Billy Bob Thornton, who had three films in
three months to end 2001, stars as a prison corrections officer
named Hank who has got his share of problems with his family. His
son Sonny (Heath Ledger,
"A Knight's Tale") is a loser, a fellow
corrections officer that seems to be heading nowhere. Hank's father
Buck (Peter Boyle), a racist and former corrections officer, is
doing poorly healthwise and needs constant supervision. Hank and
Sonny, who work at the same prison, are preparing to complete an
execution of a cop-killer inmate (Sean "P-Diddy" Combs) who happens
to be married to a hot diner waitress named Leticia (Halle Berry).
Much, much tragedy ensues...and, an unlikely romance develops
between Hank and Leticia that drives much of the film's second half.
This movie's not going to make you feel all
good inside, but it packs a wallop and Thornton and Berry are
fantastic. Through all of the gloom that make up these two people's
lives, you can kind of see why they develop the relationship that
they do. The acting is very impressive, especially from Berry, who
will feel robbed if she doesn't get nominated for this work—she does
it all in this film, including a pretty intense couple of love
scenes, lots of sobbing, faking a Southern accent and beating a
child. (After doing almost no nudity for her career, now Berry does
"Swordfish" and this film? Interesting.) A couple of surprises and
some humor sprinkled throughout make this one more interesting than
it might look in its advertisements.
"Monster's Ball" is a great film, but it
clearly is not for everyone. It kind of reminds me of "Affliction"
or "Leaving Las Vegas" in that way...it is high on drama and a great
vehicle for strong performances, but it will never win over the
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard