It is a testament to the talents of acclaimed documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky that “Monster” is as intensely watchable as it is, considering how less than spectacular the album which the film documents the making of, “St. Anger,” truly is. Fans of the group should find much of interest, including some stunning concert footage, but others will likely just scratch their heads as they wonder what is so bad about being Metallica.
Fans of the filmmakers since they allowed several of their songs be used gratis, the members of the band, at the suggestion of their management agency, invited Berlinger and Sinofsky into their studios to document their “back to basics” approach of their new album. Just before the filmmakers begin work on the film, band bassist Jason Newsted quit the band, forcing band management to hire a therapist, Phil Towle, to work with the band to keep the remaining members from fracturing even further. It is these sessions with Towle that make up a good portion of the film’s 139 minute running time, and provides not only an insight into what makes a musical group rarely seen in the glossed-up MTV specials audiences have become accustomed to, but most of the pure unadulterated entertainment. Where else can you see the leader of a band which sold fifteen million albums still feeling despondent over being kicked out of this band twenty years previous when they were all nobodies, as we see when former band guitarist Dave Mustaine shows up at Towle’s behest to confront band drummer Lars Ulrich during a lull in recording while guitarist/singer James Hetfield is away at rehabr It’s not pretty, but it does entertain at a base emotional level, and this sequence and many others do illustrate just how different the viewpoints of famous and successful people differ from the average person.
A documentary like “Some Kind of Monster” probably couldn’t have existed even five or ten years ago. But in this day and age of reality television and extreme analysis, there is no better time for this film to be, even if its appeal would be mostly limited to band fans and sociologists. Despite the film’s extended running time, the rhythm of the film moves as a brisk pace. The crisp cinematography and stunning sound both in the studio and on stage are a treat for the eyes and ears.Rating: B+