Metallica is back. Metallica is angry. Metallica is bitchy as hell.
If anything, let it be said that Metallica: Some Kind of Monster succeeds at penetrating the long-standing heavy metal façade of the “most successful band of all time” and provides a revealing, behind-the-scenes look – and what we see isn’t pretty.
Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky trailed closely after Metallica from 2001 to 2003, a rough period for the band, which had just parted ways with bassist of 15 years, Jason Newsted, and was working on St. Anger, their first album in over five years. Newsted’s departure left the band in an emotional quagmire. To mend growing tensions between the remaining members, the band hired “therapist/performance enhancement coach” Phil Towle.
First, the good.
The ensuing group sessions with Towle reveal a band that has not only hit upon hard times since its halcyon days, but become estranged from its hardcore reputation and its past. Remember the days of “Alcoholica”? It seems they don’t. Their therapy also offers surprising moments of comical relief (unwittingly provided by Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett) that reveal a lighter side to the band.
In that sense, the film is an enjoyable eye-opener. Berlinger and Sinofsky, in capturing Metallica’s every waking moment – both glamorous and decidedly non – satisfyingly ground these former heavy metal demi-gods in reality. These men are just like you and me – only much, much richer.
Now the bad.
This 139 minute-long flick is as bloated as it is revealing. I’m not sure when it was exactly – maybe halfway through watching former lead guitarist David Mustaine tearfully confess to Ulrich about his troubled life post-Metallica – did I feel the need to hurl. I understand these men have a lot of history, but frankly, these guys’ neuroses and self-absorption made me nauseous.
And it only gets worse. Lead singer James Hetfield -- who during therapy realized he needed to clean up his act -- sought rehab., stranding the band in a musical purgatory with their album, St. Anger, in flux.
His return to the band several months later was the final straw. Seeing Hetfield – the same Hetfield who raged through much of the eighties with a “f*ck you” attitude – whine to Ulrich and Kirk Hammet he can’t work past 4 p.m. every day as part of his rehab like a fossilized Whitney Houston post-crack is just plain annoying. Not that I was expecting his hardcore persona to be reinforced, but to sit through more than two hours of what is essentially, the result of group therapy, is torture in and of itself.
What Some Kind of Monster, like St. Anger perhaps, could have used, was another round of intensive editing. Trim the flick to a bearable hour, maybe an hour-and-a-half rather than near-Titanic length, by cutting some of the extraneous band banter and the end product would be a much tighter documentary, an experience just as revelatory sans cinematic drag.