What exactly is a "Christian movie review"? When the word becomes an adjective, things get blurry. Some treat a Christian movie review as a sort of sermon-essay that draws on examples from movies. Others say a Christian film journalist should primarily review, promote, and applaud films that spell out the gospel in plain language. Still others write reviews as a discipline of renewing our mind, as Scripture exhorts us to do, leading us to "dwell on" what is "excellent … worthy of praise … of good repute" (Philippians 4:8) in all the art culture has to offer.

One film opened across the country this week that made it very clear just how many different uses there are for a Christian movie review.

Monster's Ball is a drama directed by Marc Forster, filmed with quiet grace and a naturalistic style, like Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. It stars the fantastic Billy Bob Thornton as Hank, a corrections officer carrying intense racial prejudice in one hand and a sidearm in the other. Hank's aging father Buck (Peter Doyle) constantly reinforces the family's race-hate. For example, he calls his grandson, Sonny, "weak" because he befriends black neighbors. Halle Berry plays Leticia, the wife of a convicted killer, who is trying to raise her son right and survive as a black single mother in the middle of the South's racial tensions. Hank is deeply shaken after a confrontation with Sonny (Heath Ledger of The Patriot), and his raw emotional wounds open the door for a new and unlikely friendship. When Leticia gets a job pouring coffee at Hank's favorite late-night diner, they become friends against all odds.

Make no mistake: This is a story about unbelievers, behaving in sinful, reckless, dangerous ways as they nurse their particular needs ...

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