on 8 April 2006
I first saw this film alone in a theater years ago when I had an afternoon off. I can still remember how its disturbing images haunted me for days after. It shows the dehumanizing, emotionally disconnected underworld of London prostitution. Bob Hoskins portrays a good-hearted loser, just released from prison. Usually loveable Michael Caine is simply hateful as a sleazy mobster who gives Hoskins a job chauffeuring an elegant call girl (Cathy Tyson). While driving her to her assignations, Hoskins naively falls in love with her. He wants to protect her and feels jealousy as he waits for her trysts to end. Predictably, his amateur love is unrequited - she's a professional who has lost the capacity to feel romantic love. However, she does have an obsession; to locate and save a drug-addicted young girl who is also being sexually exploited by Caine's character. Like a knight on a quest, Hoskins sets out to locate the girl. In his search he visits the creepy haunts of young women enslaved in drug-dependent prostitution. His quest is successful, but his love is not returned. In the end however, he is really the only winner; he has a heart and still knows how to love. Bob Hoskins gives an achingly beautiful performance.
on 3 January 2015
Without doubt the UK could be proud to have Bob Hoskins (1942 - 2013), amongst their finest actors, along with Michael Caine and Robbie Coltrane : who both co-star in this fantastic 80's drama.
It tells the story of a newly released convict, George (Hoskins), to act as a 'driver' to a mysterious call girl, Simone (Cathy Tyson), by his old crime/underworld boss Dinny Mortwell (Caine - at his best as a very nasty villain).
Soon after, George is dragged into the world he sought to escape, simply because he is 'taken in' by Simone - acting as a 'father figure' (as he only gets to see his own daughter occasionally, thanks to his estranged wife's disapproval).
They're attacked by Mortwell's associate, Anderson (Clarke Peters), then a cat and mouse game ensues when Simone tries to escape Anderson/Mortwell's clutches, they do eventually when the two gangsters are shot dead by Simone in a hotel.
Both funny and tragic in places, but what Mona Lisa does (to near perfection), is that it explores the inter-relationships between a lot (not all) of the characters : even if they're not onscreen for long, it manages to do that in less than a couple of hours : a brilliant excerpt of Phil Collins "In Too Deep", is a wonderful addition to the proceedings.
Perhaps that is why this movie is so appealing - and that's enough reason to have it in one's DVD (or Blu-Ray) collection.
Recently released from prison 'George' (Bob Hoskins) is given a job to chauffeur around high-class prostitute 'Simone' (Cathy
Tyson) by his former boss 'Denny Mortwell' (Michael Caine)
'George' feels that 'Denny' owes him for taking the fall and serving time.
'Simone' insists that rough-diamond 'George' looks the part by buying him new-clothing.
Initially the relationship is strained but as time goes by they form a friendship, 'Simone' given her history has always found it
difficult to trust anyone, till now.
She asks 'George' to help her find 'Cathy' a friend who is under the control of 'Pimps' working the seedy-side of town.
'George' agree's to help after 'Simone' tells him she dare not enter the establishments run by the gangland and pimps as she
is too well known.
'George' is about to experience a world he knows little about in the search for 'Simone's' friend......a search that will bring threat
This is a gritty role for the 'late' George Hoskins'
A well made film that is sure to hold your attention throughout.
The film also includes 'Robbie Coltrane' as loyal friend to 'George' - 'Thomas'
The film restored and re-released on this format by 'Arrow'
(Not perfect but far superior to the DVD and Video release in picture quality)
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS / FEATURES
Brand new restoration sourced from the original camera negative, approved by director Neil Jordan and cinematographer
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original uncompressed PCM mono 1.0 sound
Original English Subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing
Audio Commentary by Bob Hoskins and Neil Jordon
Brand new interviews with director Neil Jordan, writer David Leland and producer Stephen Woolley
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
on 29 February 2016
Bob Hoskin's plays George, a small time criminal who's just been released from prison. He approach's his former employer Denny Mortwell (Michael Caine), believing that he owes him a favour. Mortwell gives him a chauffeuring job driving around high class call girl Simone (Cathy Tyson) on her various engagements. While they don't really get along at first it soon becomes apparent that George is falling for her. Simone approach's George about the possibility of him trying to find her friend Cathy (Kate Hardie). George agrees and so begins his quest which takes him deep into the heart of the disturbing world of street prostitution, where any girl, even those who are underaged can be bought for a price! As he delves deeper he begins to suspect that Mortwell might be involved in the young girls disappearance. As he gets closer to finding her, he must use all of his street smarts to stay alive! Without wishing to give everything away, just to say that there's no happy ending here as the tale ends with a definite sting in the tail. This is without doubt a modern British classic, featuring Hoskin's at the peak of his powers, Cathy Tyson is also superb as is a genuinely menacing Caine as the despicable Mortwell. This is a deeply affecting film about the true realities of those caught up within the prostitution business. There are no easy solutions, and the film never goes for a Hollywood ending. Overall this is totally unmissable featuring superb performances, an outstanding script and a very engaging story, highly recommended! Thanks for reading and I hope that you enjoy the film.
Neil Jordan was, for me, one of the outstanding film-makers of the 1980s and 90s (a period during which there was something of a dearth of decent British/Irish films) with a string of fine films such The Company Of Wolves, Angel, The Crying Game and The Butcher Boy, and (my personal favourite) Mona Lisa, which provided a relatively original take on the British (being set in London) gangster film. Showcasing a career-best (along with that in The Long Good Friday), and Oscar-nominated, performance from Bob Hoskins as the salt-of-the-earth, but nervy, released jailbird, George, Jordan's film accurately captures the low-life London milieu of the 1980s with its seedy, dingy Soho strip-clubs, as George attempts to find his way in a now much-changed world. What also helps to set Mona Lisa apart from the majority of films of its type is its razor sharp screenplay and script, co-written by Jordan and, leading screen-writer of this era, David Leland.
Following initial rejection from his wife and teenage daughter, George is given a job via Mortwell (Michael Caine again playing Michael Caine, but to good effect here) as a chauffeur to 'going-up-in-the-world' prostitute Simone (Cathy Tyson), who has left her Kings Cross streetwalking career behind and is now working the Park Lane hotels and Highgate mansions. From some initially rather unconvincing scenes, Tyson grows into her role as the initially resentful madam, who eventually enlists George's support in her search for her lost friend and co-worker May (Sammi Davis). On the other hand, Hoskins impresses from the first scene of him, striding edgily across Waterloo Bridge during the opening title sequence, in a role which appears to have been tailor made for him. For me, pretty much all the high-points of the film are scenes involving Hoskins and Tyson, whether it be the initial hilarious scenes between the two (such as that where Hoskins, at Simone's behest and expense, decks himself out in leather jacket and Hawaiian shirt in order to be 'more respectable') or the superb denouement scene on Brighton pier where George's sense of frustration and betrayal come to a head.
In addition to the two central performances, Robbie Coltrane is typically excellent in a(n on-going) cameo role as George's mate, eccentric garage mechanic Thomas, who markets artefacts of modern art (e.g. ornamental plastic spaghetti) and with whom George has a running exchange of their ideas for potential fictional detective storylines (which begin more and more to mirror George's real-life dilemmas). On recently re-watching the film, I also noticed that playing the ruthless pimp Anderson is none other than Clarke Peters (who later became famous as Lester Freamon in the magnificent TV series The Wire). Also, look out for punk band Doctor of Madness' founder Richard Strange playing a Soho porn shop worker.
Although towards the end the film becomes (arguably) relatively predictable, Hoskins' performance (principally) catapults the film into (for me) five star territory (which even the inclusion of Phil Collins on the soundtrack cannot negate), leading me to rate Mona Lisa as one of the outstanding British films of the 1980s.
on 4 October 2010
Mona Lisa [DVD] 
Many people rate "The Long Good Friday"(1981), as Bob Hoskins finest performance--personally I feel this "fable" set in the seedy side of Londan and Soho has his greatest Movie performance(Hoskins had had, an extensive stage and tv career--prior to his movie debut in Zulu Dawn(1979)).
Hoskins plays 'George' just out of a seven year prison stretch, not to bright and looking for work.
He is given a chaffeuring job--to drive Cathy Tyson--playing the prostitute,around, the two take an instant dislike to each other...(i havent laboured to much over the plot, as in the last review , i got criticized for giving to many plot spoilers away...)
This discription does the movie no favours as the story has undercurrents of friendship/loyalty and trust. and Betrayal.
It also has Michael Caine as 'Mortwell'--a splendid oily cameo, he fully inhabits his character, as do Hoskins , Tyson(who should have really been a big star after this). Robbie Coltrane also works well with Hoskins as his best friend. The Wire's Clarke johnson appears as Anderson--a very diffrent beast to Freamon, from said series.
Neil Jordan was only onto his third movie (Angel-Stephen Rea, Company of Wolves--Terence Stamp, David Warner), and then this, which cemented his reputation.
It is filled with small character moments, and a gradual build up of tension, set against the background , and that of Graham Greenes 'Brighton'
The Movie came out around the time (I think) of Personal Services, Withnail and I and British pieces were making money again.
The cast all work well together and it is beautifully shot by Roger Deakins--DP superb lightingman that he is...
Seek this movie out and be genuinely startled
Apparently the movie is due to be re-made(a lousy idea) with possibly Ryan Philippe and Micky Rourke in it--now that sounds a terrible idea...
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.
Neil Jordan and David Leland's dark portrayal of working in the underworld is finally remastered to it's former glory on Blu-Ray, and I for one am impressed with it.
This new release, approved by both Neil and Roger, has been lovingly remastered from negatives used on-set. They have been cleaned, brightened and colour balanced to give us the best 2k experience (2k in 1080p). the audio is also had a touch-up, but still is in mono. This isn't such a big deal, as long as it is clear and works well with the visuals--which is certainly does.
If you didn't catch this the first time round, and I have to admit neither did I, Bob Hoskins (The Long Good Friday) plays this guy out of the nick looking for a job. He's been inside for ages now and is out of touch, but fancies himself as a chauffeur for a high class call girl (Cathy Tyson (Band Of Gold)), who is being pimped out by Mortwell (Michael Cane (The Black Windmill, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)) in the London area. She's got to find her friend though, which gets in the way of the boys' work.
This is a brilliant film with some of the best actors of the time. everyone from Robbie Coltraine as a book-worm to the odd seedy guy trying to help George out are well acted. Cathy Tyson was also very good in this, and now we can see why she was picked to be a hooker in Band Of Gold. Her no-nonsense attitude is what drives the story onward and forwards.
Onto the more important aspect for collectors: the Blu itself. It is a very good disk to be honest with you. I am very impressed by the work done on the picture, though it is a bit dotty at times, it's well-balanced, and has a good transfer from the negatives.Roger Pratt, the original cinematographer has lovingly brought this back to life. If you look at the trailer you'll see how bad things were for Mona Lisa.
This disk is well packed extras wise. There's a commentary track from Bob and Neil, the original trailer, interviews with Neil and David about the writing process and subtitles. The cover is reversable too.
The only let down for me is the mono soundtrack, but it is better than a noisy dub - and it makes this feature look really good. Yes, the story is slow to form, but this is a good thing and it makes the story interesting.
Well worth a look, and worth adding to your collection.
on 16 April 2014
Superb performances in lead roles from Cathy Tyson & Bob Hoskins (earned him a BAFTA and an Oscar nomination) with Robbie Coltrane & Michael Caine in shorter supporting role appearances along with a meticulous production turn this atmospheric and character driven film to a highly rewatchable work of art that aged very well.
As far as the boxset itself - be careful, as the Reader Reviews here cover many different editions.
I ordered at first the Mona Lisa [DVD] (1986) edition, after seeing a picture of it next to a review that referred to a commentary track, only to find out that this specific edition had no extras, and not even subtitles or even scene selection.
The Criterion edition Mona Lisa - Criterion Collection [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] is the one that comes with the Jordan-Hoskins commentary track (recorded in 1996), and after ordering a used copy of this currently out of print edition from Amazon I can say that it's very interesting and informative. Sadly the availability of this edition is limited and not always in reasonable price. I wish Criterion will have it re-printed as it's so much better than the other editions.
Regarding the commentary track: although it seems Jordan & Hoskins were recorded in different occasions,as there's no conversation going on, the tracks were very carefully edited and matched to the video and result in one of the more cohesive , flowing and valuable commentaries I've listened to so far.
This edition (Criterion) also comes with English SDH subtitles (feature only) and scene selection.
Not even the Blu ray edition has the above mentioned commentary track.
Potential viewers should, however, be aware that it might be considered slow in today's standards and there's also much less emphasis on plot and story telling, but rather on the characters and relations between them.
Further reading for anyone interested in the movie can be found in Robert Sellers' book Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Inside Story of HandMade Films
The sad news of Bob Hoskins' death prompted me to revisit his films. Along with The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa has always remained with me as one of my favourite films. Watching it again after a gap of several years it has lost none of its power. Bob Hoskins' performance is staggeringly impressive, portraying a character with huge emotional depth. And Michael Caine is almost equally good in a deeply unsympathetic role. Adding superb direction and cinematography to these performances has produced a film that for me is pretty much flawless.