Sunday, November 27, 2022

Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

New Orleans is the perfect city for Mona “Lisa” Lee to escape to, because when you’re there, it is tricky answering a question like “have you seen anything unusual?” Her powers make her dangerous and her innocence makes her vulnerable to exploitation. Most of all, she is unpredictable, even if the film she appears in sort of is. Regardless, Lee will start to learn something about people in Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, which releases Tuesday on BluRay.

There is a blood moon out tonight, making it a fitting time for Lee to escape from her high security mental hospital. Given her powers of mind control, it seems weird she hasn’t made a break for it sooner. After inducing a few relatively mild cases of self-harm, she makes her way to the Big Easy, but the grittier, less touristy part. After forcing Officer Harold to shoot himself in the leg, she saves Bonnie Hunt (a fictional stripper and not David Letterman’s crony) from a violent woman on a jealousy bender.

Seeing Lee’s powers at work, Hunt takes her home and starts hatching schemes to harness those uncanny abilities for her own benefit. After a few days of mind-controlling ATM-withdrawers and Hunt’s strip club customers, Lee starts to suspect Hunt is maybe doesn’t deserve her help, but the stripper’s shy son Charlie does.

Mona Lisa
is a dramatic improvement over Amirpour’s disappointing sophomore slump, The Bad Batch, but it will inevitably draw unfortunate comparisons with the Kimiko “The Girl” Miyashiro character in The Boys. Their powers are different but their personalities and demeanors are similar. Intriguingly, we are told in passing Lee’s family defected from North Korea, but Amirpour never develops this potentially significant tidbit into anything.

Nevertheless, Jeon Jong-seo is excellent as Lee, vividly expressing her innocence and her anger. Kate Hudson nicely plays against type as the convincingly trashy Hunt. However, Ed Skrein turns out to be the surprise scene-stealer as the not-as-sleazy as he looks “Fuzz” (don’t call him a drug-dealer).

Yes, we pretty much know where this is heading, but Amirpour maintains a vigorous energy level and nicely evokes the atmosphere of other-side-of-the-tracks New Orleans—but not the sounds. Music is always important to her films, but in this case, it is her music (including an eerie rendition of “Mona Lisa” from Collin Hegna, whose tunes can also be heard in her previous films) and not NOLA music. Still, this is so much better than
Bad Batch, it almost inspires feelings of relief.

This is also just what the doctor ordered for Hudson, who certainly does her best to break out of the rom-com doldrums. It is an interesting cast that does a lot of nice work. Recommended for its dark slickness,
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon releases Tuesday (11/29) on BluRay.