Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is ostensibly a reference to the trepidation and uncertainty with which the titular heavy metal band began to look at the world after their split with long-time bassist Jason Newsted. You’re unlikely to leave the film with a better understanding of founding members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich as musicians, but as people, they’re apparently just like you and me. You see, Some Kind of Monster isn’t so such a “rock n’ roll movie” as much as it is two hours of couple’s therapy. After Newsted’s departure, the band had a difficult time recording their new album St. Anger, in part due to Hetfield’s ongoing struggle with alcohol and Ulrich’s battle with Napster. It was at this point that Metallica hired a therapist to help them conquer their inner demons, and Berlinger and Sinofsky were there to chronicle just how difficult it was for the group to play nice with each other. Some Kind of Monster is a first for me: a film that’s intimate to a fault. Confidentiality is the core of a patient/therapist relationship, something this whiny documentary betrays the moment it plops the audience in the same room with Metallica and Phil Towle, the “therapist/performance enhancement coach” hired by Q-Prime’s management team to teach the band to “treasure every moment.” Some Kind of Monster is frequently funny and despite several stand-out moments that address the interaction between psychology and creativity and the relationship between the documentary filmmaker and the subject, not only does it take us places where audiences probably shouldn’t be going, but it also reeks of shady public relations—an egocentric justification for the troubles the band has gone through since Newsted’s split and an apologia for fans still angry at Ulrich for going ape-shit against file-sharers. There’s a moment in the film where Berlinger and Sinofsky force a fascinating correlation between the paintings that hang in Ulrich’s home and the music the band makes, calling attention to the relationship between art and the spectator and the way that art is consumed. This scene has absolutely nothing to do with the psych sessions between Metallica and Towle, and it’s a great one. It’s obvious that Berlinger and Sinofsky see the irony of a man who makes $5 million at Christies after dogging fans for illegally downloading overpriced music. It’s this economic disconnect between Metallica and their fans (immortalized in John Heyn and Jeff Krulik’s popular short Heavy Metal Parking Lot) that gets shortchanged throughout the self-absorbed Some Kind of Monster. Hetfield’s troubles with booze certainly engender sympathy but when he reveals the band is spending $40,000 a month on counseling in order to figure out ways to get into “the zone,” you may respond with a resounding, “Get over yourself already.”
- Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
- James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, Jason Newsted, Dave Mustaine, Cliff Burton, Bob Rock, Phil Towle, Torben Ulrich
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: