Simone, played wonderfully well by Cathy Tyson in her debut film, is a high-class call-girl, doing the rounds of the hotels and posh houses of London, but her life wasn`t always thus, nor is it as problem-free as she likes to pretend. George - Bob Hoskins at his near-best - fresh out of prison, trying to make it up with his daughter, is taken on as driver to Simone, both of whom are `controlled` by a slimy Mr Big (a scary Michael Caine) and the smoothly terrifying Anderson, played with frightening force by Clarke Peters.
It was so good to see this superb film again after about 25 years. Hoskins and Tyson have a good and touching rapport in their many scenes together, Caine is suitably greasy, Robbie Coltrane doesn`t put a foot wrong as George`s mate, and even good old Joe Brown has an effective brief cameo, as do Sammi Davis as a much abused tart, and Perry Fenwick as a pimp.
The whole film is swathed in smoky atmosphere, whether in the seedy, murky dives of the London underworld or the prostitute-populated streets of King`s Cross. George is an oddly innocent observer of all this, while looking for a girl that Simone wants to find and perhaps rescue. George is falling for Simone, but Simone has other plans. The girl is played brilliantly by Kate Hardie (her dad, Bill Oddie, must have been proud).
There are obvious echoes of Taxi Driver, as well as of other films set in London`s seedier quarters, but Mona Lisa has a sad, moody charm all its own.
Hoskins is both funny and moving, Tyson was a real find back then (whose subsequent film career hasn`t quite fulfilled such promise), and it`s a movie well worth watching, or indeed revisiting if, like me, you haven`t seen it since its release. You might be surprised at how well it`s worn, and how ultimately touching it is, with an ending which manages to be both upbeat and downbeat at the same time.
A very good film.