Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster is a masterpiece of rock ‘n roll documentary film making, and has set the bar high for those who attempt it in the future. This is a film so gritty and so real that, at times, one can only wonder how the members of Metallica, the world’s biggest metal band ever, let themselves be so open on camera for the public to see.
Metallica is James Hetfield (rhythm guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums), Kirk Hammett (lead guitar), and brand-spankin’-new member Robert Trujillo (bass – he just replaced Jason Newsted just before Metallica’s MTV Icon program). James, Lars, and Kirk have been together for nearly twenty years (Dave Mustaine of Megadeth fame was the lead guitarist during the recording of the band’s first album, Kill ‘Em All, but was subsequently kicked out for his outlandish behavior before the recording of Ride The Lightning, the band’s second album. This fact plays a major part in the film), and have shared fame, wealth, and idolization around the world.
Things are not always as they seem, however, and Some Kind Of Monster makes sure that we know that. During the recording of the band’s latest studio effort, the highly debated St. Anger, Metallica went through a phase that can only be described as tragic, and one that the members felt should be documented.
Enlisted for the job are documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, and what a piece of work they have put together here. The film begins with some Metallica factoids, and then dives right in to what is going on within the band. Jason Newsted has just left the band to do a side project (he attests on film that Hetfield would have nothing to do with him if he did a side project while in Metallica), and the band is at a crossroads. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Hetfield has an alcohol problem, and has taken it upon himself to go into rehab. Without their front man and a bass player, what are Ulrich and Hammett to do? The band had made some preliminary recordings at The Presidio in California, but nothing was set in stone by a long shot.
Hetfield’s rehab stay goes months longer than expected, and upon completion he is put on a very strict 12:00-4:00 PM work schedule to record the new album. This very much displeases the rest of the band, but they insist on pressing on. Fights ensue, as well as talk about whether or not all of this is even worth it.
Therapist Phil Towle is recruited to help the band with their issues, and does an admirable job of coaching James and Lars. His services may have saved the band.
But, as we know, St. Anger was completed and released last summer. To say it has been heavily debated since is a true understatement, as the album has divided fans right down the middle and left many wondering what has happened to Metallica.
This is exactly how they’ve always wanted it. Metallica has never been a band that bounds to the norms, and Some Kind Of Monster shows firsthand the intentions the band had with the album, and how they accomplished them. It is an anger-filled album, a revealing album, and after seeing the film, a healthy album.
Some Kind Of Monster‘s greatest merits lie within its honesty and no-holds-barred approach. The cameras role as we watch true metal legends duke it out. Lars is always on the offensive, James on the defensive, and Kirk playing referee. We learn about the band members’ private lives and what they do to get away from the spotlight.
The film’s more touching moments involve ex-member Dave Mustaine, who gives a gut-wrenching testimonial explaining how he screwed up back when Metallica was just getting started, and how he’d go back and change things in an instant if he could. We also follow Hetfield to his daughter’s ballet practice, sleeveless shirt, tattoos, and all. To see James and Lars being true and caring fathers puts a whole new face on everything you have ever known about Metallica. Gone is the over-the-top machismo, and in is how caring, thoughtful, and tight these guys really are.
This is a truly Oscar-caliber documentary, and it’s not just for Metallica fans. The only people I can see being turned off by this film are people who really cannot stand heavy metal music. This is not a concert film, but a film about friendship, collaboration, letting out frustration, and ultimately getting the job done. Even at 135 minutes, the film never slows or becomes dull. On the scale of rock ‘n roll documentaries, Some Kind Of Monster is one of a kind.
Studio: IFC Films
Length: 135 Minutes
Rating: Unrated (contains strong language)
Theatrical Release: July 9, 2004 (Limited)
Directed by: Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sin
Written by: N/A
Cast: Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine, Jason Newsted, Bob Rock, Phil Towle