Mona Lisa (1986)

mona lisa poster 1986 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good story, good looking, good cast


Movie Info

Movie Name: Mona Lisa

Studio: HandMade Films

Genre(s): Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  June 13, 1986 (US)/September 19, 1986 (UK)

MPAA Rating: R

mona lisa bob hoskins dress up outfit

Now I’m stylin’ and classy!

George (Bob Hoskins) is out of prison after a seven year stretch and estranged from his daughter (Zoë Nathenson) as a result.  Against the warnings of his friend Thomas (Robbie Coltrane), George goes to his old boss Denny Mortwell (Michael Caine) for a new job and finds himself as a chauffeur for a high-class prostitute named Simone (Cathy Tyson).  Despite their differences, George finds himself growing closer to Simone, and when Simone asks him to search for a prostitute friend named Cathy (Kate Hardie), George agrees.  George finds himself getting deeper and deeper into something that he doesn’t understand…and the danger to Simone and himself is growing.

Directed by Neil Jordan (who co-wrote the script with Dan Leland), Mona Lisa is a crime romance thriller.  The film was released to positive reviews, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (Hoskins).  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #107) which has since gone out-of-print.

Mona Lisa has been on my “must see” list for a while.  Our library didn’t have a copy and with the Criterion out-of-print, other versions weren’t always easy to find.  I was happy to see a Blu-Ray copy on the shelve pile at a Half-Price Bookstore…and even happier to learn it was only $5.  I’m glad I finally got to see Mona Lisa because it was definitely worth it.

mona lisa george simone cathy tyson bob hoskins

Well this is awkward…

The story is oddly played out in the song “Mona Lisa” by Nat King Cole which permeates the movie.  The song questions Mona Lisa’s smile and motives, and that actually becomes the thrust for the relationship between Hoskins and Tyson.  While it appears they are growing closer, Hoskins doesn’t see that it is all an illusion…a Mona Lisa smile.  Tyson is using Hoskins and he’s too enamored and confused with his own personal problems (his estrangement from his daughter) to see it…leading to tragedy.

Hoskins is perfect for the movie.  In The Long Good Friday, he showed a ruthless side and a potential for violence.  Here there is the same burning anger underneath the character, but instead he is dominated by his emotions and protective nature.  He comes off as brutal when he needs to be (like forcing Tyson to admit the truth) but is extremely sympathetic in the end…he’s hurt and broken.  Tyson likewise is good as the prostitute who puts on airs about being high class, but she’s just owned by Michael Caine’s character like any ordinary prostitute’s relationship with her pimp.  She isn’t an awful person for wanting to be with the woman she loves, but her path to do it is cruel (but probably her only path).

mona lisa bob hoskins cathy tyson brighton

This has been a pretty crappy trip to the beach, Simone

The movie has a gritty dirty look that goes with the movie.  The film has a lot of Taxi Driver to it in themes but a bit scaled back on visuals.  That also fits the themes because there was no love in Taxi Driver, but obsession.  Here there is love and emotions…something Taxi Driver was lacking and therefore was a colder picture visually.

Mona Lisa is a classic crime thriller with a romance that isn’t a romance.  It is a one sided romance that is cruel and cold, but the path to that ending is interesting and twisted.  It is led by great actors and good gritty look.  Mona Lisa doesn’t exactly take the path you’d expect for the movie to take, and it is a better movie for it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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