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USA 2004
Directed by
Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
120 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

Synopsis: In 2001, heavy metal rock gods, Metallica, go into an improvised studio with "no riffs, no songs, no titles, nothing" to create a new album. They invite two documentary filmmakers to record the process which ends up spanning 2 years.

I have never heard a Metallica song, let alone listened to a Metallica album. Then again I've never been drag racing or worked in a steel mill. Plenty of people have, however, and the boys in the band have gotten filthy rich because of it (when they find a new bassist they give him US$1 million as a welcoming present). This film will be a must-see for fans as it is a revealing depiction of the band dynamics, the member's personalities and their creative processes.

Although essentially a commissioned film, to their credit, the band are remarkably willing to demystify themselves (notably revealing the presence of a US$40,000 a month therapist with a comb-over and really bad taste in knitwear as necessary to keep them together in the same room), as a well-marketed money-making machine of which they are both complicit victims and willing beneficiaries. This is where the documentary supposedly acquires a broader audience and in this respect it has been critically well-received. I was less than convinced.

Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky are sophisticated film-makers and this is one of the problems. There is a conventional quality to their film which gives the audience enough personal revelation to make them feel that they have been given a back-stage pass but is at the same time contained by the knowledge that what is seen is for public consumption, and, is thus, ultimately, a dutiful servant of the band's constitutive narcissism and iconic reputation. Lead singer James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich provide an intermittently diverting Punch and Judy show and there are frayed tempers in group situations and reflective moments to camera alone, the kind of behind-the-scenes stuff we all enjoy, but two hours of three middle-aged guys making up cacaphonic four chord songs about their personal angst, interspersed with illustrations of their wealthy lifestyles (including a Christies' auction of Ulrich's considerable contemporary art collection) is much more than I, or probably anyone other than a die-hard fan, needed.




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