Mona Lisa (1986): Neil Jordan’s Romantic Thriller, Starring Bob Hoskins, Michael Caine, Cathy Tyson

Premiering in competition at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa boasted a strong performance from British actor Bob Hoskins, who won the jury prize in Cannes and later was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.

Hoskins plays George, a recently released from prison convict, who had taken a fall for his nasty boss, Mortwell (Michael Caine), for which he had served seven years in jail.

Upon release, George is assigned by Mortwell to a new job, escorting (and protecting) Simone (Cathy Tyson, British model and niece of actress Cycley Tyson), a gorgeous black call girl to her various assignations, some of which prove dangerous. Lo and behold, like a fairy tale from hell, the frog George falls for the princess Simone, not realizing some secrets from her past, including her sexual orientation and emotional involvement.

Spoiler Alert:

After Anderson attacks George, Simone flees to Brighton. George finally finds Cathy and takes her to Brighton to reunite her with Simone. He finally realizes that Simone and Cathy are lovers, and that Simone doesn’t care about him and only used him to find Cathy.

Mortwell and Anderson then arrive to take back control of Simone and Cathy, and an enraged Simone shoots them both dead and then threatens to shoot George. upset at her ingratitude, he punches her, takes the gun and leaves.

Freed of his underworld obligations, George returns to a more normal life, working in his friend’s garage and spending time with Jeannie.

Films of Interest

A major part of the story concerns Simone’s search for her true love, Cathy (Kate Hardie), a teenage prostitute who had once worked for the same pimp.  This subplot inevitably led some critics to compare the film with Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (De Niro rescuing Jodie Foster from Harvey Keitel and a life of prostitution) and Paul Schrader’s Hardcore, with George C. Scott as the concerned father of a young whore.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Actor: Bob Hoskins
Oscar Awards: None
Oscar Context:
In 1986, the winner of the Best Actor Oscar was Paul Newman for Scorsese’s “The Color of Money,” in a contest that included Dexter Gordon in “‘Round Midnight,” William Hurt in “Children of a Lesser God,” and James Woods in Oliver Stone’s political drama, “Salvador.”

Bob Hoskins as George
Cathy Tyson as Simone
Michael Caine as Denny Mortwell
Robbie Coltrane as Thomas
Clarke Peters as Anderson
Kate Hardie as Cathy
Zoë Nathenson as Jeannie
Sammi Davis as May
Rod Bedall as Terry
Joe Brown as Dudley
Pauline Melville as George’s Wife


Directed by Neil Jordan
Produced by Stephen Woolley
Written by Neil Jordan and David Leland
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography: Roger Pratt
Edited by Lesley Walker
Production company: HandMade Films
Distributed by Island Pictures
Release date: 13 June 1986
Running time: 104 minutes