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Some Kind of Monster

by John Connolly

The ultimate Behind the Music-style expose, the mesmerizing, hilarious (often unintentionally), even poignant rockumentry film Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is quite brilliant. It's a cross between This Is Spinal Tap and Analyze This. All that's missing is the little druid and mini-Stonehenge. The documentaries makers, Berlinger and Sinofsky were acquainted with the members of the biggest heavy-metal band in rock history, having used Metallica's music while making their first documentary, "Paradise Lost," which was about a group of kids accused of being murderous devil worshippers because they listened to (drum roll, please) Metallica. When they began this project, it was intended to be nothing more than a standard "making-of" movie, showing Metallica in the studio, recording a comeback album of sorts.

 

And for its first half-hour, "Some Kind of Monster" kind of follows along these lines. But even in the opening minutes, you can see the fissures forming. The band has fired its longtime bassist, Jason Newsted, apparently because he wanted to play with other musicians in his spare time. Newsted's termination points to some control issues, which brings us to the band's creative leaders, singer/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, two control freaks who find, during the course of filming, that they really don't know each other despite 20 years of creative partnership.

 

Comedy writers would be hard pressed to craft characters as egotistical and self mocking as Ulrich and James Hetfield, who are contstantly locking horns over matters big and small, including the disputed meaining of the phrase "that souunds stock". The tensions between Ulrich (who looks like Tom Sizemore's character in Heat when he sports his hair short and bleached)  and the fearsome Hetfield are reaching boiling point when Hetfield abruptly leaves the band for several months of rehab. Hetfields exit came shortly after a vodka fuelled, bear hunting expedition to Russia, one of the many classic "rock star" moments captured in the movie.

 

Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and record producer Bob Rock (that can't be the man's real name, can it?) are left in limbo but continue their therapy sessions with pastel-sweater-wearing "performance enhancement coach" Phil Towle, the balding man Metallica's management hired to keep the band from imploding in the first place. Towle seems to need some therapy himself; by the end of the movie, he seems to think he's in the band. The $40,000-per-month, New Age maxim spewing therapist who tries to make nice between Hetfield and Ulrich while Bob Rock and guitarist Kirk Hammett cower in the corner like children afraid that their parents will get a divorce. One of the only opinions Hetfield and Ulrich will concur on, it seems, is that the leechlike, largely unhelpful Towle has got to go.

 

When Hetfield returns, he's a changed man (in some ways, the wells of anger and self-loathing are still bubbling), well-versed in the rigors of therapy and no longer burying his head in his hands whenever Towle walks into a room. Now it's Ulrich, in the midst of a backlash against his anti-Napster crusade, who seems to be the man most in need of help, though you wonder how bad it can be for a man who pockets $13.4 million from selling his own artwork at a Christie's auction.

 

But then, one of the most interesting elements of "Some Kind of Monster" is the way it shows the price the band members unconsciously have paid for their rock stardom. Now that they're past 40 with families of their own, Hetfield and Ulrich finally face their demons. Having been on Film Four, the documentary will no doubt be shown on Channel 4 soon and I can’t recommend it highly enough…watch it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
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