Halle Berry's breakout role, as everyone knows, came in Monster's Ball, the drama that gave her her first Academy Award and widespread acceptance as a top notch actress. The quality of her acting skills are not at question, but is the movie of equal stature?
Monster's Ball is about Hank, a corrections officer (Billy Bob Thornton) who has to deal with a racist father (Peter Boyle) and a distant son (Heath Ledger). Hank is somewhere in the middle between the two; he still lies under the racist views of his father, but deep down is too innocent of a guy to feel as much hatred as he is expected to. However, out of tragic luck his loyalties are put to the test when he has to help Leticia, a black woman (Halle Berry), and a relationship spurs. Of course, what neither of them realize at first is that Hank is the man who executed Leticia's husband.
The movie is tragic, dark, dramatic, yet slightly uplifting in a weird kind of way. Monster's Ball avoids some of the clichés that other movies of this sort have (surrounding the dark secret that Hank realizes first about his involvment in Leticia's husband's death), and has one really humorous moment that works surprisingly well within the confines of the mood of the film.
The acting is superb. Billy Bob Thornton tends to play similar characters from movie to movie, but he is good at it, so I can't complain. He does a good job revealing the complicated depth of his character to the screen, as he is slightly racist but doesn't know why he is. It's fun to see him change over the course of the movie (at the beginning he is shooting guns at black kids, and by the end, of course, he's sleeping with a black woman). As for Halle Berry, she does do a very good job. Her accent and facial expressions are worthy of an Oscar. However, within the confines of the film, I didn't feel that her character was that powerful. Sure, she probably turns in a better performance than Nicole Kidman or the others nominated for the award, and in that respect she deserves but, but as far the effect of the character, there's nothing special here.
Monster's Ball is definitely an actor's movie. Were this movie to have B-grade actors, nobody would have thought twice with it. It is a racial drama with a twist, and nothing more. But because of the actors, the script seems all the stronger, the direction style - which is pretty impressive at times - seems all the more powerful, and Monster's Ball benefits greatly overall.
Monster's Ball is a good movie, but if anything, it's worth it so see the acting.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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