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

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Advertisement
Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Subtitled Salazar's Revenge in the UK, this fifth film in the long-running series never quite...

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.