"The Monster's Ball" begins with one of the finest opening sequences I have ever seen and really sets the tone for an intelligent, well acted and credible film. The tension and lead up to the main event in the first half of the film is superbly developed and really draws the viewer into plot. Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) is a prison guard at the local prison, this is like his father before him and his own son, Sonny (Heath Ledger) is following in his footsteps. Hank is in charge of the execution procedure and the film opens with him running through this grisly process which for the first time will involve his son. The prisoner due for the electric chair is Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs - P. Diddy for those in the know) and we first meet him during his final visit with his ex-wife and their son. Leticia (Halle Berry) his wife is angry and venomous and shows no mercy to her soon to be executed ex-husband. Their son Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun) idolises his wayward father and presents a tragic figure of someone desperate for love and a guiding hand. He receives none of this from his mother who alternately smothers him and berates the poor chap for being a "fat little piggy". Unfortunately the execution doesn't run smoothly and Hank violently berates Sonny for not performing correctly. In a dramatic and catastrophic sequence Sonny and Hank fight with appalling consequences. In a similar disastrous event of her own, Leticia must also come to terms with her own loss. It is here that fates plays a hand and puts the two baggage carrying characters together and they start to develop an ever deepening relationship with each other. The success of the film is in the acting performances and the only surprise is that only Halle Berry won an Oscar here. She puts in a performance of great depth and feeling and her raw passion and needs are plainly obvious. Thornton on the other hand plays a much more taciturn role but even so the feelings of the character he plays comes shining through. Great support from Coronji Calhoun and Heath Ledger. Some have questioned the composition of the film, especially the lengthy sex scene between the two leads. Admittedly this is a lengthy sequence and there's little doubt it could have been cut shorter but it still remains a powerful and raw piece of the whole film. It would also be wrong to concentrate on this scene alone when there are so many other good ones, the stand off between Leticia and Hank's racist and bigoted father or the tear jerking scene in the hospital. The ending also deserves special mention for being believable, credible and not taking the easy Hollywood get out that we all were probably expecting.