“Mona Lisa” 1986. Dir. Neil Jordan. With Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson and Michael Caine.
She was a tart. He was an ex con. Sometimes love is a strange and wicked game.
I hold the film “Taxi Driver” on a pedestal. I don’t normally compare films to it, but not many films have affected me nearly as much as “Taxi Driver” has. Except for one film – “Mona Lisa”. If Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster and Harvey Keitel’s production of “Taxi Driver” had a twin brother, it would be Neil Jordan, Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson and Michael Caine’s epic masterpiece “Mona Lisa”.
“Mona Lisa” is the story of George (Bob Hoskins in an Oscar nominated performance), a small time player that just got released from prison. Once he’s released he travels to meet his old boss Mortwell (Michael Caine). Mortwell is somewhat of an underworld boss who we rarely see, but much is talked about him. George expects to be compensated for his silence while he was in prison. Mortwell keeps giving George the brush off. George’s persistence forces Mortwell to give George a job. He gives George a job to be the driver for one of his “tarts”, Simone (played by the utterly beautiful Cathy Tyson).
George is completely captivated by Simone when he first sees her, because she’s beautiful, a high class call girl and she is black. As George drives Simone more and more he begins to be pulled in by her, he becomes soaked up in her. Yet she is unattainable. After each one of Simone’s tricks, she manipulates George to drive to the lowest gutters in London to search for this girl that Simone has been trying to find.
The film explores the dirty and disgusting underworld of pornography and sex in London during the 1980’s, and it gives you a queasy and unsettling feeling as we watch George wallow the depths of London’s filth to search for this young girl that Simone needs to find for reasons unknown to us. A problem happens when George becomes overly protective of Simone, and begins to watch her while she’s on the job. George gets turned on by watching Simone – yet he gets insanely jealous and filled with rage.
Mortwell reaches out to George – more like summons him. He tells George to stop searching for this girl; to just drive Simone and you will be rewarded for it. Michael Caine turns one of the best performances of his career. He plays a character that is sadistic and very underwhelming. There is much subtext to his character; we know so little about him. We are told so little, but we are shown so much. Caine glides in and out of scenes so perfectly. He’s a master at his craft, and this film brilliantly displays it.
Bob Hoskins gives the performance of his career in this film. He brilliantly portrays a man who has lost touch with society – and is trying to find his way in this strange and turbulent world that he’s been thrown back into. Hoskins displays this admiral
amount of passion and rage. His emotions are as if they’re a riddle. He has the extreme dark side that seeps out but we don’t see to the climactic ending. This film isn’t as sleazy as “Taxi Driver” – which is what makes it so haunting. This film hasn’t been seen by many people that I know. I would hope that you would check it out. It’s truly a remarkable piece of British cinema. The film is being remade with Mickey Rourke and Eva Green in the two main roles. You shouldn’t remake the “Godfather”, “Raging Bull” or “Mona Lisa”.
Neil Jordan has always been one of my favorite directors. I think his films are truly unique and true artistic treasures. His film, “The Crying Game” has always been held as his staple, but “Mona Lisa” is his masterpiece.