(director/writer:Ana Lily Amirpour; cinematographer: Pawel Pogorzelski; editor: Taylor Levy; music: Daniele Luppi; cast: Jeon Jong-seo (Mona Lisa Lee) Kate Hudson (Bonnie Belle), Craig Robinson (Officer Harold), Ed Skrein (Drug Dealer, Fuzz), Evan Whitten (Charlie, Bonnie’s son); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; John Lesher, Dylan Weathered, Robbie Mierls, Adam Mirels: Grisbi Productions; 2021)

“A chilly thriller, featuring the sleazy side of the Big Easy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Iranian-American director-writer Ana Lily Amirpour (“The Bad Batch”/”A Girl Walks Home At Night”) presents a chilly thriller, featuring the sleazy side of the Big Easy.

One night after being in a catatonic state for a decade Mona Lisa Lee (Jeon Jong-seo) awakens and escapes by getting super-power from her mind-control and escapes from the  ’Home for Mentally Insane Adolescents’ near the Louisiana everglades. Mona, a North Korean beneficiary of political asylum, leaves behind in the wake of her escape a number of bloody guards and cops. On a chance encounter, she meets in the strip club the opportunist Bonnie Belle (Kate Hudson), a streetwise pole dancer who offers the escapee a place to stay if she pays rent. Bonnie schemes to use Mona’s powers to make some money. 

It might not have enough art to lure in the arthouse crowd or enough horror to capture that audience or a good enough story to be impactful, but it sort of works as a schlocky, trifle making much of the raunchy neon lit N.O. scene and the cheap thrills thrown at us from its wrenching story of someone both so vulnerable and powerful.

The vulnerable Mona, the ultimate outsider, now as a teen robs cash machines. She’s befriended by the local drug dealer with facial tats, Fuzz (Ed Skrein), and by Bonnie’s neglected misfit eleven-year-old son Charlie (Evan Whitten), who gets her hip to dancing to Metallica. The friendship between the misfits passes for a solid B-film story resolution and the outcasts are viewed as the good guys, which leaves us looking for the gumbo we were promised but never served in this flawed film that leaves us hungry for more.

Venice Film Festival 2021