Monster’s Ball

Monster's Ball refers to an old English term for a condemned man's last night o­n earth, and Marc Forster's tale of a white man and a black woman whose worlds have been shaken and tossed awry, eventually finding solace in each other, is not an easy watch. The subject matter for o­ne: three generations of Southern bigots sharing a house brimming with a legacy of violence and hatred, a monster's ball ending with an execution (we're not spared from details), and other tragic circumstances which round out the story.

Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) is the son of Buck (Peter Boyle), who has inherited his father's racist stance, and the generational job of Death Row prison guard, handed down as well to Hank's son, Sonny (Heath Ledger). Sonny isn't cut out for all the hatred and balks in the midst of the green mile walk. Tragedy ensues, and here's where Hank's life takes a redeeming turn for the better. He meets Leticia (Halle Berry), the local late-nite diner waitress, and they begin a relationship, based not o­n romance or happiness, but o­n desperation and pain. Hank's conversion from hardened, unfeeling bigot to considerate, sensitive lover in light of Leticia's o­n-the-edge, oppressive loneliness and poverty makes for compelling moviewatching and Halle Berry delivers a first-rate performance. Yet the script suffers from massive shifts in character development (read Hank's) which are not quite believable, and despite important subjects addressed (racism, the inhumanity of the death penalty) the story doesn't quite resolve the patchwork of scripting holes in an otherwise courageous and praiseworthy film.