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Ten years later, after ratting on his old mobster friends in exchange for personal immunity, two hit men drive a hardened criminal to Paris for his execution. However, while on the way, whatever can go wrong, does go wrong.
George, after getting out of prison, begins looking for a job, but his time in prison has reduced his stature in the criminal underworld. The only job he can find is to be a driver for Simone, a beautiful high-priced call girl, with whom he forms an at first grudging, and then real affection. Only Simone's playing a dangerous game, and when George agrees to help her, they both end up in a huge amount of trouble with Mortwell, the local kingpin.Written by
"Mona Lisa" is a moving and memorable combination of the British crime film and the character study, produced by George Harrison's company Handmade Films, and serves as a showcase for some very impressive performances. Top billed Bob Hoskins, in particular, in his Best Actor Academy Award nominated performance, is the person we follow through a convincing depiction of the seamy underbelly of London, a land populated by pimps, prostitutes, and mobsters such as the nasty Mortwell, played by Michael Caine. Hoskins's George is a low level mob member getting out of prison after spending seven years there, emerging into a world unfamiliar to him. He's given the initially thankless task of acting as chauffeur for high class prostitute Simone, played by the lovely and amazing Cathy Tyson. But before very long, they start warming up to each other, and the balance of the movie charts their evolving relationship. Ultimately George decides to do Cathy a favour by finding a long lost acquaintance of hers, but this leads to less than ideal circumstances for all involved. Director Neil Jordan, who co-wrote the screenplay with David Leland, has created a compelling if deliberately paced drama that's much more character driven than action oriented, although there are some brief bursts of violence here and there. The film also has quite the sense of humour at times, much of it coming from the engaging Robbie Coltrane as George's good friend Thomas. Thomas likes to create art using plastic spaghetti (!), and there is a nice light touch brought to all scenes with Hoskins and Coltrane, which prevents this story from ever being too much of a downer, although for the most part "Mona Lisa" is grim and gritty stuff, with fairy tale and film noir elements emphasized. By the end, George realizes how much he's been manipulated by his femme fatale Simone. Jordan completely pulls us into this vivid environment, and gets nice supporting performances from Kate Hardie as Cathy, Zoe Nathenson as Jeannie, and Sammi Davis as May, as well as a sufficiently slimy portrayal by Clarke Peters ('The Wire') as vicious pimp Anderson. (Trivia note: look for Kenny Baker, always to be best known as R2-D2 in the "Star Wars" franchise, as a boardwalk busker.) Fine music by Michael Kamen is a plus, as well as soundtrack selections including Nat King Cole's performances of "When I Fall in Love" and the title tune. Worth seeing for fans of the crime film and of the cast & crew, "Mona Lisa" is potent entertainment. Eight out of 10.
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