|Monster's Ball (SE)/ B+,B+
|Lion's Gate/2001/112/ANA 2.35
Three generations of Grotowskis living
together in tight-lipped discord are death row guards at a Southern
prison. The precarious balance of their triangle is showing signs of
imbalance that forebodes impending implosion. As the Grotowski world comes
under severe pressure, a death row widow, Leticia Musgrove, finds
her life in collision with Hank Grotowski. Monster's Ball details
with rich texture the various relationships of father to son, mother to
daughter, and man to woman. It's emotional power is often remarkable.
Though many of the kudos bestowed on Monster's
Ball refer to it as a performance movie, director Marc Foster has done
a splendid job. Working from a tightly knot script by Milo Addica and Will
Rokos, he creates a knotted tension throughout the production,
particularly in the early scenes. The death row sequences detailing a
methodical procedural approach work very well. This is very spare
filmmaking. There's a very clean line that runs from beginning to end. And
Foster keeps the explosive emotion in tow. The simple script is never
affected. You do not get the feeling of being manipulated by the
filmmaker. The pervasive minimalist sensibility of Monster's Ball
suits the material to perfection.
A cup of coffee goes a long
way. ŠLion's Gate
Roberto Schaefer's cinematography is stunning.
End to end compositions on the 2.35 widescreen are beautifully balanced
but consistently disappear into the narrative. The lighting is fabulous.
Outstanding score from Asche and Spencer effectively weaves through and
blends with the narrative.
People in need seem to somehow latch onto each
other. Monster's Ball is essentially a film about people in need,
about people in denial of their own lives. There's a sense that the film
wants its character to break away from the mold they've been cast into. Of
course, the film is laced with irony. But again, the fact that Foster
keeps is so straight and narrow is to his great credit.
Foster gets grand performances across the board. Of
course, Halle Berry's Academy Award winning performance is excellent, but
personally, I found Billy Bob Thornton extraordinarily effective as Hank
Grotowski. It's a wonderfully understated perfectly modulated
performance. Thornton's great performance forces a certain restraint in
Berry's work. The use of screen hunk Heath Ledger in a striking supporting
role is a great choice. Ledger does fine work. In fact, all the acting
soars. Peter Boyle's vacuous presence as the senior Grotowski Buck is
frightening in its fierce reality. Very nice work from Sean (Puffy)
Combs as Lawrence Musgrove.
Lion's Gate delivers Monster's Ball in a very
detailed transfer. The image has a three-dimensional due to the great
depth of detail. Contrast range is excellent. Color is consistently
accurate with a cool, detached palette often playing against the
emotional content. Skin tones are very natural with good range. The
transfer has an overall glossy feeling with plenty of spare light output.
Good surround directionality and an open feeling to the music on the Dolby
Digital 5:1 surround track.
This very generous special edition features two
dual commentaries; one from director Marc Foster and cinematographer
Roberto Schaefer and a second from stars Halle Berry and Billy Bob
Thornton also with Marc Foster. Both commentaries are relaxed and
informative with outstanding scene specific insights. There are deleted
scenes as well as outtakes. Behind the scenes footage includes cast
interviews and character insights. There's also a short anatomy of a scene
feature. Billy Bob Thornton's playful scene twisting in the outtakes of
Hank as played by Carl (Thornton's signature Slingblade character)
alone is worth the price of purchasing this DVD.
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