Derek Winnert

Monster’s Ball **** (2001, Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Taylor Simpson, Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle, Sean Combs, Mos Def, Amber Rules) – Classic Movie Review 151


A troubled African American woman (Halle Berry) has a dangerous affair with a prejudiced white man (Billy Bob Thornton) in America’s Deep South in director Marc Foster’s posh, classy, complex 2001 romantic drama that tackles the race issue with a subtle hand.


Halle Berry won the 2002 Best Actress Oscar as Leticia Musgrove, the widow of Death Row prisoner Lawrence Musgrove (played by Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy, aka P Diddy). Racist jail guard Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) puts him to death by electrocution. But then, after a tragedy of his own, in which his son Sonny (Heath Ledger) dies, Hank and Leticia embark on an unlikely, torrid, troubled affair.


This dark and disturbing character study is certainly not a jolly experience, but it is a provocative story and an acting feast, with both stars on blazing form. Combs and Ledger are effective in their brief roles, and so is Peter Boyle as Hank’s father Buck.


Milo Addika and Will Rokos’s intelligent, no-easy-answers screenplay is deftly crafted and won an Oscar nomination. A sterling piece of work, it provides a unique romantic situation and lots of fine dialogue and it’s not afraid to grasp the nettle of several big themes.


Marc Foster directs admirably, with careful attention to his actors as well as his script. Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer makes it look great.


The writers Addika and Rokos have cameos as the prison guard and warden.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Film Review 151


Posthumous Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta winner Heath Ledger died on January 22 2008, just aged 28.


Peter Boyle died on December 12 2006, aged 71.


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