Monster's Ball

Monster's Ball

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There is a hard edge to this movie that turns out to be soft. It looks like the genuine article, but on closer inspection is a clever imitation. Coincidences feed the plot.

Everyone remembers Halle Berry's emotional outburst at the Oscar ceremony, where she won Best Actress against all the odds. How does her performance match up? For someone typecast as hot totty in action pictures, the role of Laticia is a gift. She accepts it with gratitude.

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The American South carries the stain of slavery still, marking the psyche of every white man who uses the N-word and every black woman who suffers abuse. Peter Boyle's reactionary bigot, wheel-chaired and bitter, is a fine example of the Klannish old order.

He plays Buck, father of Hank (Billy Bob Thornton), head guard at the penitentiary, where they fry convicted murderers in the electric chair. Hank's son, Sonny (Heath Ledger), works there, too, and also lives with them in the same house on the edge of town.

Laticia has her own problems. She's about to be evicted. She can't stop her obese son from pigging out on candy bars, or slobbing in front of TV. Her husband has been executed. She has no money, no future and little hope.

Given these circumstances, Berry looks too darned good. When, by chance, Laticia hooks up with Hank, it seems ironic - he escorted her husband on his last walk to the death house. One moment he displays inherited racist tendencies when two black kids wander onto his property and the next is taking Laticia to bed. It doesn't seem right, somehow.

Thornton plays down better than most - remember his barber in The Man Who Wasn't There? He implies so much by doing so little. Berry is open to the wounds of a role that stretches her beyond anything she has done before. Such honesty deserves respect. Boyle is quieter now. In the past, he would have eaten Buck for breakfast and sicked him up for lunch. Instead, he lets the poison sink and cuts his words with a sharp knife.

Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2002
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Monster's Ball packshot
Oscar-winning tale of uncoventional love.
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Director: Marc Forster

Writer: Milo Addica, Will Rokos

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Dante Beze, Peter Boyle, Coronji Calhoun, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Heath Ledger, Anthony Marble, John McConnell

Year: 2001

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: US,

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