'Monster's Ball" begins with an iron chair. A convict is seated there and, soon, he will be turned into a mess of violently convulsing fried human meat. Guards stand around, insuring the sentence is properly carried out.
Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) is a racist death-row officer in a prison in Georgia. His father Buck (Peter Boyle) also worked there, and now Hank is bringing his son Sonny (Heath Ledger) to continue the family tradition. On Sonny's first day, he is to watch the execution of convicted murderer Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs).
After the execution, Hank meets a young black woman, Leticia (Halle Berry). However, he does not yet know she is the widow of the executed Musgrove. Their ensuing relationship leads to surprising consequences for all involved.
Many who come to see this film are probably curious about seeing an Oscar-winning movie. So they will tolerate the enormously brutal and very explicit execution scene, as well as the depressing plot with its incessant tragedies that beset the main characters. As for the characters themselves, they are extremely self-contradictory and are not amenable to any logical explanation. Take Hank, for example: A dyed-in-the-wool racist, he almost kills two black children who come to visit his son at home, and only 30 minutes later we see him loving a black woman. He declares his hatred for his own son, his mother and all mankind, and then suddenly helps bring an injured black boy to a hospital. The director leaves us with no explanation as to how this monster can so suddenly transform into a lonely man craving love.
All these mysterious transformations cause the audience to eagerly anticipate the finale. But the movie gives no definitive answers to the questions it sets.
Still, some scenes in director Mark Foster's "Monster's Ball" will leave an indelible impression on the audience. Without a doubt, Berry's Oscar will ensure a lot of revenue for this thought-provoking, though flawed, movie.