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Film / Mona Lisa

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Mona Lisa is a British neo-noir crime-drama film released in 1986 directed by Neil Jordan and starring Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Michael Caine and Robbie Coltrane. George is a small-time crook just out of prison who discovers his tough-guy image is out of date. Reduced to working as a minder/driver for high class call girl Simone, he has to agree when she asks him to find a young colleague from her King's Cross days. That's when George's troubles just start.

For the painting by Leonard Da Vinci, see The Mona Lisa.

This film includes examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Thomas has a scene where he talks about his plastic decorative Tutti Frutti. The actor who plays him, Robbie Coltrane, appeared in a TV series called Tutti Frutti.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Simone jilts George for her lover Cathy. However, after Simone shoots Mortwell and Anderson, George no longer has to deal with them or the criminal underworld, and is free to spend time at home with his estranged daughter Jeannie and to start an honest job as an apprentice mechanic working for his best friend Thomas.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Simone for George.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Thomas has aspects of this, decorating his place with plastic spaghetti and other dubious "artwork" and obsessing over pulp crime novels.
  • Cool Car: George drives a crème 1962 Mark II 3.4 Litre Jaguar.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: George falls in love with Simone. She doesn't reciprocate his feelings, partly due to Incompatible Orientation. In fact, in their final scene together, Simone makes her lack of feelings quite clear - by pointing a gun at George.
  • Extreme Doormat: George to Mortwell and to Simone.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Mortwell is gregarious and seems friendly enough, but the moment you cross him, even over a seemingly trivial matter, he shows his true colors.
  • Funny Background Event: Two midgets on the boardwalk fight and kick each other mimicking George's fight with Anderson.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: George and Thomas live and later work together.
  • Incompatible Orientation: George falls in love with the call girl Simone, only to discover that she's a closet lesbian.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Both Simone and her lover Cathy are outwardly feminine, work as prostitutes catering to heterosexual men, and show few stereotypical lesbian traits.
  • London Gangster: George is a low-level gangster, or rather a lackey to one. Denny Mortwell, his boss, is a much more powerful and vicious one.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Thomas asks George what the white rabbit is for in a figurative way and gets a very literal answer:
    Thomas: What's this, George?
    George: It's a rabbit.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Under his tough guy façade, George is a kind man whose temperament is completely out of place in the sleazy, amoral criminal underworld where he's found himself through a combination of bad luck and bad choices.
    • Thomas, even more so since he wants nothing to do with Mortwell's racket.
  • Noodle Incident: We know that George spent seven years in prison and basically took the fall for Mortwell, but we never find out what he did. To serve a sentence of seven years, it must have been something relatively serious.
  • Recycled In Space: A loose, modern-day version of The Frog Prince.
  • Red Light District: While searching for Cathy, George prowls about porn shops, strip clubs and brothels in the seediest parts of east London.
  • Relationship Reveal: Simone and Cathy are lesbian lovers.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Writer Steve Woolley came across an article from a British tabloid about an ex-convict on a GBH charge who claimed in his defense to be protecting ladies of the night against their Maltese pimps.
  • Scary Black Man: Anderson, Simone and Cathy's razor-wielding pimp.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In-universe, as one of Cathy's Johns performs a depraved sexual act on her (involving insertions of his gloved hand), he has a beautiful love duet from Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly playing on his turntable. We also see paraphernalia from heroin use on his table.
  • Take That!: Thomas finds George watching a porn film and quips, "Channel 4, is it?" Channel 4 had refused to back the film due to its nature, though they did buy the television rights.
  • Titled After the Song: The movie frequently features excerpts the Nat King Cole song "Mona Lisa", and shares its title.
  • Title Drop: Not spoken by any of the characters, but in the soundtrack song, as well as Thomas's fridge magnet of da Vinci's painting.
  • Totally Not a Criminal Front: Mortwell boasts to George that all of his businesses are aboveboard and legal. What he really means is that his bars and sex shops are the legal front for his actual operations.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: While things seemed to work out OK for George after the shooting, we never find out what became of Simone - was she imprisoned for murder, or did she beat the rap by making a (reasonable) case for self-defense?