The Monkey's Mask

"Very Good"

The Monkey's Mask Review


"The Monkey's Mask" is an old-fashioned film noir murder mystery, complete with a hard-boiled private eye narrator, a pretty young victim, a host of nebulous suspects and a smoky, enigmatic femme fatale.

With whispered intensity, it oozes 21st Century Raymond Chandler ambiance as the detective probes the apparently gruesome strangulation slaying of a tormented poetry student, makes stunning discoveries about her sordid sex life and falls for the girl's voluptuous professor in spite of knowing full well it's a bad idea.

The film is a brilliantly modern homage to everything that was great about the golden era of gritty gumshoe flicks, with two significant twists: 1) its inventive, gorgeously coarse, full-color cityscape cinematography, and 2) the detective...is a woman.

Jill Fitzpatrick (Susie Porter) is a ruggedly beautiful 28-year-old Aussie with a slightly butch cadence of practiced but affected cool confidence. Freckled-faced and pixie-tressed, she's decidedly, youthfully feminine but tough enough to look natural in motorcycle boots, a ribbed T-shirt (no bra) and a cropped leather jacket. She also sports a scar over her left eyebrow from a scuffle with a treacherous cop in her past.

Eager to get back in the game after months without work, Jill is tapped by the parents of the dead girl (Abbie Cornish) -- a coed composer of venomous (and mediocre) sexual poetry -- to hunt for her killer after the Sydney police don't show enough interest to satisfy their grief.

What she discovers is some seriously incestuous artifice and intrigue within the city's ostentatious, intellectual poetry community -- and her ticket inside is her seductive dalliance with Diana Maitland (Kelly McGillis), a sexy, 40-something poetry lecturer with an open marriage to a slippery defense attorney several years her junior (Marton Csokas).

Directed by Australia's Samantha Lang from a novel in verse by Dorothy Porter (no relation to Susie), "The Monkey's Mask" is amazingly faithful to Chandler-like structure for a film that so clevery reinvents some of the genre's core elements. Porter provides a hardened yet superbly penetrating voice-over ("There's no drink that can take away the taste of a fresh face rotting.") and gives a subtly vulnerable, knockout performance that feminizes and humanizes everything that makes noir detectives such enduring heroes.

She's not able to detach from her emotions when she and Diana get hot and heavy in a handful of very sensual sex scenes. She can't help but be affected by the ominous videotape footage of the embittered but fragile victim's last poetry reading.

What's more, Jill is all the more fascinating a character because she's really not that gifted an investigator. She has to work frustratingly hard for her clues and sometimes reaches her revelations too late, leading to a very dangerous atmosphere as the killer begins taunting her with threatening, voice-altered messages on the answering machine at her very remote house in the very foggy mountains an hour from the city.

The reinventive splendor of "The Monkey's Mask" is handicapped slightly by a nagging logical impasse regarding where the body is found and by an ambiguous, erotic thriller-fashioned finale that is ironically anti-climactic, somewhat implausible and lacking a proper sense of peril. But this closing departure from the film's noir quintessence is the only reason I haven't given it four stars.



The Monkey's Mask

Facts and Figures

Run time: 93 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 10th May 2001

Distributed by: Strand Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 17

IMDB: 5.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jill Fitzpatrick, as Diana, as Mickey

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Advertisement
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.