Mona Lisa Review

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Down on his luck after a spell in the clink, petty gangster George takes up a lowly job driving around an expensive call girl, Simone. As he slowly falls in love with her, he becomes protector as she connives against local criminal kingpin Mortwell.


Neil Jordan’s intelligent and taut fusion of gangster thriller, love story and exploration of class, race, even sexuality, in the heat of Thatcher’s Britain, offers a fascinating inversion of the spit and valour of Bob Hoskins’ previous home-grown mob-classic A Long Good Friday. Here Hoskins’ George is everything Harold Shand is not: downtrodden, sapped of life, but with a heart beating still. Shand was in over his balding head, George knows he is getting deeper and deeper, aware it could be both his downfall and salvation.

His problem and his inspiration, in Neil Jordan’s seamy, shadowy London holding boom-time at bay, is rangy black prostitute Simone (the striking Cathy Tyson). She has her own mission, to prise an underage hooker from the grip of her pimp, but it’s causing ripples all the way up to slimeball boss Mortwell (Caine turning his cockney edges to famously black purpose). Their’s is a doomed romance on so many levels, but you can see George coming back to life, if not fully connecting with it, and that is the film’s journey. Hoskins is so powerful, so rendingly alive, he, with Jordan’s subtle guidance, lifts this delicate film from socially aware thriller into a Scorsese-like parable on exploitation, greed and the various dangerous guises of desire. The world Jordan envisions is desperate, but Hoskins’s human heart offers a lovely thread of hope.

Some elements haven't aged so well, particularly the beady-eyed look at the sex industry and lesbian sub-plot, both of which - shocking at the time - now look almost quaint.