As part of their Handmade Film releases, Image Entertainment presents Neil Jordan's 1985 crime drama 'Mona Lisa', which stars Bob Hoskins in a critically acclaimed performance as George, an ex-con who gets caught up in London's illicit underworld of fulfilling people's desires. It's a decent film, but the story will likely work better for those who haven't experienced a lot of material from the crime genre.
'Mona Lisa' opens with George just getting out of jail after seven years. He returns home, but his wife refuses to let him in, regardless of the pleas of their teenage daughter. He ends up moving in with his artist friend Thomas (Robbie Coltrane), the most interesting and unique character in the story, so it's disappointing to discover he has such a limited role.
George also goes round to see his former boss Denny (Michael Caine), who he did the time for, about a job. Although Denny doesn't meet with him, George is given the job of driving call girl Simone around. The two clash, in part because he stands out and makes it difficult to hide what she's up to from the hotel staff. After he accepts her help in how to dress, bringing to mind 'My Fair Lady' with the roles reversed, they become friends. Every night, Simone has George drive her home over a bridge where prostitutes hang out. Eventually, she asks him to help find Cathy, a girl trapped in that life. He agrees and the story becomes reminiscent of Travis Bickle helping Iris in 'Taxi Driver.'
George reaches a dilemma and has to turn on someone. After finally crossing paths, Denny wants George to get information about one of Simone's clients, an Arab gentleman. In particular, what the two do together, which will likely to be used for blackmail though it is never made stated. George finds Simone's Cathy, but Anderson (Clarke Peters), the pimp controlling her, works with Denny, and neither is going to let that revenue stream go easily. George's choice will have dire effects for someone.
While the performances by the actors are strong, the story by Jordan and his co-writer David Leland is all too familiar. Not just in film, as alluded to above, but there are quite a number of books that find a main character attempting to rescue someone in a situation like Cathy's. There is some tension during the climatic chase, but unfortunately, the results happen as expected, diminishing the film's impact.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment brings 'Mona Lisa' to high-definition on a BD-25 Blu-ray disc housed inside a standard blue keepcase. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. The Blu-ray is reported to be Region A.
In what looks to be their standard operating procedure, Image has given 'Mona Lisa' 1080p/ MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer, presented at 1.85:1, with no remastering.
Film grain is seen throughout, so it appears no digital sprucing has taken place. The image looks slightly soft at times, although there are times it is intentional, such as a close-up of Simone. It is noticeable when she and George are in her apartment and the film switches from a single, soft-focus shot of her to a two-shot of the both of them where she comes into sharp focus. Details and textures are apparent. Wrinkles on a servant's white garment can be seen as he brings tea out to George. Breath can be seen as George and Simone yell at each other on a chilly night.
Colors are moderately bright, though they really pop in a few instances. In a hotel bar, George stands out the first time he "dresses up" in a new Hawaiian shirt and orange/tan leather jacket. Most notable is the sequence when George is in a seedy part of town looking for Cathy. The bright, almost neon colors of the girlie businesses shine in the afternoon. Skintones are always consistent and look pinkish at times. Blacks are solid and there's good shadow delineation as seen on George's face during a scene in Thomas' garage.
The audio is listed as DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and the system was fully working when the Image title card came up, but the film rarely uses more than the front center channel, which is where the dialogue is located.
The voices are clear for the most part, but a scene when Simone and George are riding in a lift in the building where her flat is becomes too soft and hard to make out. The ADR is obvious at times and causes the dialogue to sound flat. It's most noticeable in an early scene when Thomas is riding with George.
Only music plays in the surrounds, and I had to have my ear pressed up against the speaker to hear it because the other speakers have been mixed so low. The bass of Genesis' "In Too Deep" is really the most work the subwoofer has to handle.
There's only the film's trailer.
If it wasn't for the quality of the actors' performances, 'Mona Lisa' would have been classified as "Skip it" due to its overly familiar plot. While the Blu-ray offers good video, the lackluster audio and lack of extras make it a disc most consumers aren't going to want to spend their hard-earned money on, especially since the film really only needs to be seen once.