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Monster’s Ball (2001)

Le Bal du monstre (Canada), A lombre de la haine (France)

A lifetime of change can happen in a single moment

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 111 minutes

UK Certificate: 15


Nobody in ‘Monster’s Ball’ does much smiling. Not Billy Bob Thornton, whose son’s a weed and dad’s a rootin’ tootin’ racist. Not Halle Berry, who’s on the verge of being evicted from her home and has a son the equivalent weight of two grown men. And least of all Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, who’s stuck on Death Row and is about to be sent to the lecky chair (someone should cheer him up with the news that rappers always sell far more records after they’ve snuffed it).

So, a laugh-a-minute this film ain’t – but it is the picture that gave Berry her much-publicised Best Actress Oscar, and her’s is far from the only impressive performance teased out of the cast list by helmsman Marc Foster. In fact, given that even the Puffster manages to produce the kind of display that leaves him looking like a bona fide thesp, you have to wonder how much of the credit should go to the cast and how much is purely down to the work of a surprisingly accomplished director.

What lets this flick down is the story. In a nutshell, it’s rubbish. Hinging on a mixture of coincidence and melodrama, it plots the romantic intertwining of the similarly hopeless Berry and Billy Bob. Via various instances of abject misery, the pair of them get together, indulge in a gratuitous and embarrassingly over-long sex scene, and then proceed to do very little else. They’re a couple of losers, and not particularly interesting losers at that.

‘Monster’s Ball’ struggles to escape its own self-styled ideals of depth, choosing manufactured artiness over true substance at every turn. It’s a shame, for it brings together a fine cast and Foster is clearly capable of producing something really good. Hopefully, if the promise he shows here is anything to go by, it will come for him – but this isn’t it.

It's Got: P. Diddy doin’ it for the Benjamins.

It Needs: Not to be confused with Monsters Inc. The kiddies will be in for a nasty shock if you accidentally stick this one in the DVD player instead.

DVD Extras A choice of commentaries between cast and crew, unseen footage, behind-the-scenes featurette, and a look at (or rather a listen to) some of the music from the pic. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10


It’s about neither monsters nor a ball – but it’s worth a look if you fancy a bit of good old fashioned wretchedness.