Monster's Ball

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Monster's Ball
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Marc Forster
Produced by Lee Daniels
Written by Milo Addica
Will Rokos
Starring Billy Bob Thornton
Halle Berry
Heath Ledger
Peter Boyle
Sean Combs
Mos Def
Music by Asche and Spencer
Cinematography Roberto Schaefer
Edited by Matt Chesse
Lee Daniels Entertainment
Distributed by Lions Gate Films
Release date
  • November 11, 2001 (2001-11-11) (AFI Fest)
  • February 8, 2002 (2002-02-08)
Running time
111 minutes
112 minutes (Unrated)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million
Box office $44,909,486

Monster's Ball is a 2001 American drama film directed by German-Swiss director Marc Forster, written by Will Rokos and Milo Addica and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle, Sean Combs, and Mos Def. The film tells the story of a widowed corrections officer, his adult son, and widowed father, all of whom work as executioners in the state prison. The main character befriends, and then begins a relationship with, a woman whom he does not at first realize is the widow of a man he executed.

Berry received praise for her performance, and won, among other awards, the Academy Award for Best Actress, becoming the first black actress to have won the award.


Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), a widower, and his son, Sonny (Heath Ledger), are corrections officers in a prison in Louisiana. They reside with Hank's ailing father, Buck (Peter Boyle), a retired corrections officer whose wife committed suicide.

Hank is a deputy warden. He oversees the execution of convicted murderer, Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs). As explained to Sonny by Hank, at the diner bar the night before, a "Monster's Ball" is what the execution team calls that night's get-together. The proceedings prove too intense for Sonny, who, as he is leading Lawrence to the electric chair, vomits and then collapses.

Hank confronts Sonny in the jail's bathroom afterwards and slaps him for being so "soft" and for "ruining a man's last walk". At home, Hank attacks Sonny in his bed and tells him to get out of the house. Sonny grabs a gun and threatens his father, who backs off. The confrontation ends in their living room with Hank at gunpoint, lying on the carpet, and Sonny in Buck's customary chair. Sonny asks his father if he hates him. After his father calmly confirms that he does, and always has, Sonny responds, "Well I always loved you," and then shoots himself in the chest, dying instantly.

Hank buries Sonny in the back garden with an abbreviated funeral because, as Buck comments, "He was weak." Hank subsequently quits his job, burns his uniform in the backyard, and locks the door of Sonny's room. He purchases a local gas station in an attempt to find common ground with his father, and to provide a diversion in his retirement. During the years of Lawrence's imprisonment, his wife, Leticia (Halle Berry), has been struggling while raising their son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun), who has inherited his father's artistic talent. She abusively berates the boy regarding his obesity. Along with her domestic problems, Leticia struggles financially, leading to the loss of the family car and, worse, an eviction notice on her house. In desperate need of money, Leticia takes a job at a diner frequented by Hank.

One rainy night, Leticia and Tyrell are walking down a soaked highway when Tyrell is struck by a car. Hank happens to be driving along and sees the two and, after some hesitation, drives them to a hospital where Tyrell dies upon arrival. At the suggestion of the authorities at the hospital, Hank drives her home.

A few days later, Hank gives Leticia another ride home from the diner. They begin talking in the car about their common losses and she invites him in. Hank finds out that Leticia is Lawrence's widow, though he does not tell her that he participated in her husband's execution. They drown their grief with alcohol and have sex.

Leticia stops by Hank's home with a present for him, but he is not there. She meets Buck, who insults her and implies that Hank is only involved with her because he enjoys sex with black women. Leticia, hurt by the remarks, refuses to interact with Hank. The incident proves to be the last straw for Hank, who decides to send his father to a nursing home.

Leticia is evicted from her home for non-payment of rent, and Hank invites her to move in with him. She later discovers Hank's involvement in her husband's death when she finds a drawing of Hank done by Lawrence as he awaited execution. She erupts, but is there waiting for him when he returns from town with ice cream. The film ends with the two of them eating ice cream together on the back porch, content with each other.



Louisiana State Penitentiary served as a filming location.

The film was produced by Lionsgate and Lee Daniels Entertainment.


The film received mostly positive reviews, with Berry's performance being widely praised. Review website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 121 of 142 reviews were positive, giving a score of 85% and a certification of "Fresh".[1]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars and stated that, "The movie has the complexity of great fiction"[2] listing it as the best film of 2001.

On Metacritic, the film received a 69 out of 100. This indicates "generally favorable reviews".


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Monster's Ball Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  2. ^ "Monster's Ball :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times (February 1, 2002). Retrieved March 27, 2011

External links[edit]