Billy Bob Thornton
Berry won an Oscar for her performance as Leticia Musgrove, a struggling young mother whose husband has just walked Death Row. Billy Bob Thornton is absolutely fantastic playing Hank Gratowski, a corrections officer who’s learning the err of his ways a bit too late in life. Heath Ledger (offering his best work yet) and Peter Boyle shine in small-yet-integral roles. Though MONSTER'S BALL may sound somewhat like a southern-fried version of JUNGLE FEVER, the truth is that it’s a quietly powerful film, a meticulously crafted and altogether compelling way to spend two hours. Notice I didn’t mention the now-legendary sex scene between Thornton and Berry at all? Perhaps I’m finally mature enough to enjoy ‘grown-up’ flicks like Monster’s Ball…Nah!!! That sex scene is pretty damn hot!
Included are two separate full-length audio commentaries, the first by director Mark Forster and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer, the second from Thornton, Berry, and Forster. Logically enough, the initial commentary focuses mainly on production specifics like casting, set design, location, and the overall creative process. The actors’ track is considerably more lively, although both commentaries are loaded with fascinating factoids and interesting anecdotes.
Four deleted scenes are also available, all of which seemed to be “smart cuts” in that they don’t really add much to the film besides a few extra minutes of running time. But it’s always great to see excised footage (particularly footage involving such strong acting performances) included as a special feature, so consider these a plus.
There are two brief featurettes entitled Behind-the-scenes and Scoring the Film. The first one runs about 5 minutes and deals mainly with the lead actors and a few alternate scenes, while the 8-minute “Scoring the Film” features some brief conversations with Forster and composers Thad Spencer, Chris Beaty, and Richard Werbowenko.