When we first see him, Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) is a spiritually comatose corrections officer who seems to have inherited his bigotry, like his line of work, from his father, Buck (Peter Boyle). A housebound invalid, Buck gripes bitterly when he sees a couple of black children stroll across the lawn to pay a visit to Hank's son Sonny (Heath Ledger), and grumbles that there once was a time when colored people "knew their place." Hank compliantly scares the children off with a rifle.
But away from home, Hank's actions are governed by a code of decency that doesn't recognize racial boundaries. The first act of Monster's Ball follows Hank and his colleagues as they prepare for the execution of Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs), a convicted cop killer who has run out of appeals. Hank does all he can to ensure that this black man can face his death with dignity.
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