Mona Lisa (1986) starring Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Michael Caine, Robbie Coltrane, Clarke Peters, Kate Hardie, Zoë Nathenson, Sammi Davis directed by Neil Jordan Movie Review

Mona Lisa (1986)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Bob Hoskins as George in Mona Lisa (1986)

An Innocent, A Broad

There have be many times when I have watched a movie deemed a classic by the majority only to end up disappointed, it has made me cautious of watching some movies because I hate to be disappointed. Thankfully one of those classics which certainly doesn't disappoint is Neil Jordan's "Mona Lisa" a stunning movie from 1986 which even now keeps you engrossed from start to finish with a mix of seedy backdrop, intrigue, characters and black comedy. It is a stunning mix with Bob Hoskins delivering one of the finest characterisations you will ever see, in fact such a strong characterisation that I am sure a psychiatrist would have fun unravelling on what makes him the way he is.

Having served 7 years George (Bob Hoskins - The Cotton Club) is out and whilst he wants answers from Mortwell (Michael Caine - Educating Rita) who he feels stitched him up also wants to see his daughter Jeannie (Zoë Nathenson - Those Glory Glory Days). Unfortunately for George neither is going to happen because his estranged wife throws him out of the house when he shows up and Mortwell is not around when George heads to his club. But the visit lines George up with a gig, being the driver and escort for Simone (Cathy Tyson), a prostitute he is paid to take care off. Despite an initial dislike of each other George and Simone begin to bond leading her to ask George to try and track down Cathy, a young girl who she used to walk the streets with but in doing so it exposes George to trouble, a lot of trouble.

Cathy Tyson as Simone in Mona Lisa (1986)

To put it simply one of the main strengths of "Mona Lisa" is that it evolves giving us a first half about George bonding with Simone who he begins to fancy, creating a mental picture of this woman, this lady as he calls her as he ferries her from one hotel to another. But then we get a second half as George finds himself looking for Cathy and in doing so finding himself getting in too deep as his search not only brings him back to Mortwell but also a violent pimp called Anderson. It means that in a way "Mona Lisa" almost starts as a romance with an added element of George looking to build a relationship with his daughter but then we get the intrigue during the second half as George slowly realises the truth about Simone, what she does and how she is using him in doing so destroying the mental picture he has created of her. And without giving anything away leads to a spectacular ending as everything comes crashing together with what for me is one of the most exciting yet simple elevator scenes you will ever see.

The other main strength of "Mona Lisa" is the well written characters and performances with the likes of Sammi Davis, Zoë Nathenson and Kate Hardie all impressing. But it is really two performances which make it tick starting with Cathy Tyson who as Simone is not only captivating but convincing; you believe this woman who whilst visiting upper class customers has street smarts, has worked the street and behind the beauty is incredibly tough and also manipulative. And then there is Bob Hoskins as George, a character who shall we say is a little naive, a good guy who ends up with the wrong sort of people but in fact is actually quite a complex character. That complexity comes out in so many ways; there is violence, there is his protective instinct, his kindness to a teenage prostitute he tries to save and his relationship with his daughter and Hoskins brings all of that out in a masterful performance.

But there is something else which makes "Mona Lisa" tick and it is a combination of style and comedy. The style which mixes the seedy streets of London where George visits various sex shops and then the beautiful voice of Nat King Coe singing "Mona Lisa" makes for an intoxicating mix. And then there is the black comedy, and there is just too much to describe from a scene where suddenly to dwarves fight to Michael Caine as Mortwell stroking a white rabbit like a Bond Villain. That probably sounds both daft and out of place yet it makes "Mona Lisa" this complete and memorable movie.

What this all boils down to is that "Mona Lisa" is a British classic which despite being over 25 years old is still brilliant. The storyline, characters, black comedy and performances all combine to create something truly great and a movie which even when you know how it ends makes you want to watch again.