Metallica: Some Kind of Monster DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

Features:

  • Trailers and a music video
  • Additional scenes
  • Interviews with the band about the film
  • Highlights from film festivals and premieres
  • Audio commentary tracks with the band and the filmmakers

Released by: Paramount
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent it. Fans of the band may want to own it.

Having been kings of the heavy metal mountain for nearly twenty years, the early Oughts were looking a bit bleak for Metallica. Internal conflicts in the band were bringing the creative process to a grinding halt, the youngest member of the band (Jason Newstead) moved on to pursue other musical interests, and the band’s past few albums had cost them some of their original fans and met with lukewarm reviews. A decision was made that the group needed to either do something radical to rebuild their dynamic, or they needed to call it quits and go home to their families. So the band contacted Phil Towle, a psychotherapist turned performance coach to the stars, and instigated group counseling to hash out their issues and hopefully put the band back on track.

Alongside that, the band decided to give their fans (and their critics) an inside look into the dynamics of a rock legend at work. Berlinger and Sinofsky, best known for their work on 1996’s Brother’s Keeper, were called into document the band’s revivification, warts and all. Over the next 2.5 years, the directors shot some 1,600 hours worth of footage, eventually trimming it down to a 140-minute, uncompromising glimpse into the inner workings of the band and its members.

The focus of the documentary is primarily on the band’s therapy and the album on which they were working, but we also get a chance to see the band’s search for a new bass player, Hetfield’s entrance to a rehab program, a visit from Ulrich’s dad (who has very clear opinions about the band’s music, and offers some off-the-cuff criticism that is some of the best heard about the album) and Ulrich’s trip to a club to see former bassist Newstead’s new band perform. One of the most surprising moments in the film was the Trowle-instigated reunion between the current lineup and original guitarist Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, who was booted out of the band in its earliest days because of his drinking problems. The encounter is tense and emotional, and the sort of thing you don’t get to see very often in rock documentaries. For those weaned on VH1, Behind The Music this ain’t. The band’s original idea was for an extended miniseries to air in that sort of context, but decided to buy out the network’s rights so that they could produce a more honest documentary, and it shows. The petty arguments, the emotional breakdowns, and Hetfield’s rehab get significantly more play than the standard “rockumentary” allows.

In between the clash of titanic egos, there are some brilliantly captured moments in the film. Hetfield’s struggles in rehab and his attempt to reclaim some time for his family from the maw of the band’s creative and financial empire in particular are riveting. The directors do a fantastic job of contrasting Hetfield, a SoCal hellraiser with a custom hot rod, and Ulrich, an art collector born to European privilege, and it’s easy to see how their personalities clash once you get a good look into both of them. The third original member of the band, Kirk Hammett, seems to have dealt with the personality clashes by simply walking away from them. In most of the confrontational scenes, Hammett sits to one side, looking exasperated and waiting to go home to his sprawling ranch.

The DVD release is absolutely stacked. From the wealth of cut footage, we get forty additional scenes that didn’t make the final round (and were cut more for reasons of running time then quality — most of them are quite good stuff). Some of the scenes come with commentary from the filmmakers, Sinofsky and Berlinger. There are running commentaries from the band and the filmmakers, but the former is only for the hardcore fan, as they don’t offer much in the way of insight. The commentary from the filmmakers, however, is chocked full of info and basically what you listen to commentaries for. You also get interviews with the band about the filmmaking process, and snippets from the movie’s premiere and tour of film festivals.

The music video for the title track is nice, though I’d honestly rather have had some footage from the club shows the band played in Paris in support of the album’s release (several tracks from which appear on the Some Kind of Monster EP).

Whether or not you’re a fan of heavy metal music in general or Metallica in particular, this is a solid documentary worth checking out. Die-hard fans may want to own a copy, as all the extra scenes and features make devouring this two-disc set in one sitting a Herculean task.

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