The second of Arrow Video’s recent Bob Hoskins releases, Mona Lisa may be the better movie of the two. When you look at the quality of The Long Good Friday and how good the movie is, this should be taken as a hint about how good this release from Arrow Video is. Not heavy in special features, it is the movie that speaks for itself both in the quality of the restoration and how relevant the film still feels to this day.
When George (Bob Hoskins) is released from jail his mobster boss Mortwell (Michael Caine) gives him a job as a driver. Taking a call-girl Simone (Cathy Tyson) from one customer to the next, he connects with her building up an affectionate friendship. When she tells him about another girl Cathy, trapped with a violent abusive pimp he agrees to help her find the girl. Getting caught up in Simone’s dangerous game though he doesn’t realise just how deeply he is being dragged into the underworld before it’s too late.
While The Long Good Friday sees Hoskins at his most aggressive, in Mona Lisa the character of George, even as a thuggish gangster is more human and relatable to the audience. Though we can tell he is a gullible fool, he is a loser that we’d love to see come out on top in the end. Just a shame that he is nothing more than a pawn to Cathy Tyson’s Simone, the true Mona Lisa of the tale.
The chemistry between Tyson and Hoskins also makes the audience fall for her charms just as George does; the subject matter of the film also pushes us along this expected path. The theme of sex slavery and child abuse are subjects that seem all too relevant these days, and while some elements of Mona Lisa may feel dated the subject of prostitution and abuse are sadly very real.
How can we not side with Simone in her battle to save a girl caught up in a world where men treat her just like a piece of meat? When the truth is revealed although George may have been used, we can still pity Simone, even if her actions put our hero in danger. It is this relationship between George and Simone, the performances of Hoskins and Tyson and the well worked script that makes the film so well, as well as Neil Jordan’s direction that gives the film an almost poetic feel with striking imagery that keeps us wondering the true meaning of what we are seeing.
While the Arrow Video Blu-ray only features a commentary track, trailers, and a few interviews, the commentary track with Neil Jordan and Bob Hoskins is very interesting to listen to, especially Hoskins comments. The highlight of this release though is the film itself is a beautiful restoration that really makes the film shine.
With Hoskins and Tyson pulling out performances that are truly great, and Michael Caine being trustworthy to do a good job, even in a small role Mona Lisa may just edge out The Long Good Friday for me when comparing the two Hoskins films that Arrow Video have released so far. I’m sure fans will debate that fact, but it does come down to personal taste which could easily change when I re-consider just how good The Long Good Friday is. Mona Lisa in the end is much more human feeling though, and in the end that makes it win out, but what truly shines from both releases is just how good an actor Bob Hoskins truly was.
Mona Lisa is available on Arrow Video Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK now, as well as part of a Dual Format Blu-ray & DVD Box Set with The Long Good Friday.