Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 2001. Lee Daniels Entertainment, Lions Gate Films. Screenplay by Milo Addica, Will Rokos. Cinematography by Roberto Schaefer. Produced by Lee Daniels. Music by Asche & Spencer. Production Design by Monroe Kelly. Costume Design by Frank L. Fleming. Film Editing by Matt Chesse. Academy Awards 2001. American Film Institute Awards 2001. Golden Globe Awards 2001. Independent Spirit Awards 2001. National Board of Review Awards 2001. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2001.
Fantastic film by Marc Forster about a death row prison warden (Billy Bob Thornton) caught in a cycle of hatred that has been passed down by his racist father (Peter Boyle) and is now being soaked up in the most negative way by his sensitive son (Heath Ledger). After a personal tragedy and a very rough assignment accompanying a murderer (Sean Combs) to his execution, Thornton quits his job and buys a gas station, in the meantime befriending a lonely woman (a stultifyingly good Halle Berry) who is also the wife of the executed criminal. The title comes from the party that prison wardens put on for death row inmates the night before their execution, and for Thornton’s characters the many conflicts and connections that happen in this film are all a part of this monster’s ball, something that can only exist in a world of madness that he finds himself in. The film reaches an intimacy so very personal and frightening that you might feel almost uncomfortable, particularly a controversial love scene where the two leads take out their grief on each other in a physical form and try to separate themselves from their sadness (Canadian audiences have it uncut, American theatres are playing a less explicit version). Fantastic performances by all, most notably Berry, a brilliant screenplay and all around an unforgettable viewing experience.