Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Kate Hudson, Jeon Jong-seo, Craig Robinson, Evan Whitten, Ed Skrein
Producers: John Lesher, Adam Mirels, Robert Mirels, Dylan Weathered
Music: Daniele Luppi
Cinematographer: Pawel Pogorzelski
Editor: Taylor Levi
Running time: 106mins
What’s the story: Mona Lee (Jeon) is a young woman with an extraordinary power. Escaping a mental institution, she finds herself lost in New Orleans and is adopted by crafty stripper Bonnie (Hudson).
What’s the verdict: Ana Lily Amirpour arrived on the scene exuding confidence with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Then wobbled with her sophomore movie, The Bad Batch. A five-year stint in TV has followed, including two excellent episodes of the rebooted Twilight Zone. Now Amirpour is back to the big screen with one of the most enjoyable films you’ll see all year.
In a modest but appealing tale, we follow Mona Lee (Jeon), a South Korean woman who flees a mental asylum in New Orleans. Mona has the psychokinetic ability to make others do what she is thinking. Meaning she is useful to stripper Bonnie (Hudson), who adopts Mona and has her convincing baying patrons of the strip joint to hand over all their cash. Bonnie’s lad Charlie (Whitten) warns her against exploiting the naïf kind-of superhero, as karma is bound to come calling. And it may take the shape of police officer Harold (Robinson), who suffers a self-inflicted wound while confronting Mona and is now looking to solve this what-the-hell case.
Colourful and bouncy, with a little grit in the third act, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is a genuine crowd pleaser. A morality play per those Twilight Zone episodes, it may all boil down to “don’t take friends for granted,” but what fun there is in watching that lesson be taught. Midsommar DoP Pawel Pogorzelski’s saturated cinematography makes it all as visually striking as Amirpour’s previous outings.
Kate Hudson has a ball as the brassy Bonnie, always chiselling an angle and scalding with an acid tongue. Jeon’s wounded oddity is adorable, none more so than when going J-Horror as she unleashes her mind mojo. Her relationship with Charlie leads them on a race against time climax that is exciting, melancholy, and hilarious. Often simultaneously. Robinson brings his usual high calibre, while Ed Skrein is a blast as Fuzz, a loveable rogue who is genuinely wounded when Charlie enquires if he is a drug dealer.
Destined for cult status, this small but perfectly formed movie is a work of art.