Hank, an embittered prison guard, lives with his aging racist father, Buck, and his own twenty something son, Sonny. Hank and Sonny work for the local prison where they are preparing the electric chair for a black inmate. After the man is executed, Hank falls in love with Letitia, the inmate\'s widow. This emotionally charged affair forces Hank to re-evaluate how deeply prison work and his father\'s infectious hatred have affected his soul.
In outline this story suggests a right-thinking liberal melodrama of healing and moral redemption. Billy Bob Thornton, a white Georgia corrections officer, falls in love with Halle Berry, the widow of a man in whose execution he had participated. Whatever message Marc Forster's rich, troubling film wants to deliver is, thankfully, submerged in details of character and place. The writers (Milo Addica and Will Rokos) show an unusually good command of the idioms of the South — its small courtesies and latent cruelties — and Mr. Forster's eye for detail and for expressive camera angles is impressive. Mr. Thornton outdoes himself, and Ms. Berry proves herself to be an actress of impressive emotional range. The supporting cast, down to the smallest speaking part, is flawless. – A. O. Scott
2001-12-26 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Monster's Ball