Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Monster’s Ball



USA 2001 : Marc Forster : 111 mins

Anyone expecting another zany instalment of Monsters Inc will be in for a severe disappointment. Then again, anybody hoping for the serious, classy adult drama suggested by the films poster, reviews and Oscar success Best Actress win for Berry, and an Original Screenplay nomination may also feel more than a little let down.

Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) is a death-row guard at Georgia State Penitentiary, following in the footsteps of his father, Buck (Peter Boyle) now retired, a semi-invalid embittered racist. The taciturn Hank is a creature of habit and ordered routine, visiting the same coffee-shop every night where he eats ice-cream with a plastic spoon. He gets friendly with waitresses Leticia (Halle Berry) whose husband Lawrence (rap magnate Sean Puffy Combs) is one of the condemned men awaiting execution though neither Hank nor Leticia are aware of the connection. But after both are rocked by tragic events, they find themselves falling into an unexpected, intimate relationship

Monsters Ball is so full of twists and turns one of them shatteringly sudden its best not to know too much about the plot beforehand. But the calamities pile up so quickly and so severely that plausibility flies straight out the window, tipping what should be a very downbeat, mature tale into a kind of morbid psychological slapstick. Its really a terrible, confusing, pretentious script, given unwarranted class by the poetic visual flair of Forsters restrained direction and some committed performances. Berry is mostly OK in a very showy role, faring best when sharing the screen in the steamy later scenes with the ever-remarkable Thornton.

20th May, 2002
(seen 8th February, Cinemaxx Berlin Berlin Film Festival. Click here for initial review)

This film appeared in the Fipresci Selection 2001-2002 : click here for full list

by Neil Young

Buy Monster’s Ball on DVD