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With: Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Michael Caine, Robbie Coltrane, Clarke Peters, Kate Hardie, Zoe Nathenson, Sammi Davis, Rod Bedall, Joe Brown, Pauline Melville, Hossein Karimbeik
Written by: Neil Jordan, David Leland
Directed by: Neil Jordan
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 104
Date: 05/01/1986

Mona Lisa (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bob Hoskins received an Oscar nomination for his superb performance as George, newly released from prison. He takes the only job he can get: chauffeur to a high-priced call girl, Simone (Cathy Tyson). Their relationship starts out chilly at best, but eventually they warm up to one another. Unfortunately their new relationship brings unwanted attention from nasty crime boss Mortwell (Michael Caine).

Director Neil Jordan and co-writer David Leland present a film rich with atmosphere, steeped in the London underworld, with all its clothes and lights and smells. They get a lot of mileage out of the visual differences between the characters: she tall, black and elegant, and he short, thick and working class. It's a crime film, and it can be intense and lurid, but it's first and foremost about these characters and Mona Lisa takes its time and gets to know them. It's not really a great film, but I'm very fond of it.

Former Beatle George Harrison produced the film through his short-lived, but wonderful, HandMade Films. The Criterion Collection's 2001 DVD is still in print, but Anchor Bay's 2006 DVD is not. In 2010, Image Entertainment released a new Blu-Ray edition with no extras save for a trailer (both DVDs came with commentary tracks and other extras). Nevertheless, the new release has a fine picture and excellent sound.

The Criterion Collection added a Blu-ray in 2021, which is even better than the Image release. It features a new 2K scan from the original camera negative (it has a beautiful texture), and the monaural soundtrack was also remastered. Bonuses include a commentary track by director Jordan and star Hoskins (recorded for the original Criterion LaserDisc release in 1996), footage from the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, interviews with producer Stephen Woolley and writer David Leland from 2015, and a new 30-minute featurette featuring Jordan and Tyson discussing the film with critic Ryan Gilbey. Gibley also provides the liner notes essay. This is highly recommended.

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