Mona Lisa & The Blood Moon Review: Amirpour’s Techno Sci-Fi Thriller Hypnotizes

Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) builds a techno-fueled superhero horror show in Mona Lisa and The Blood Moon, one that captures the feeling of being at a bad rave and so much more. The real hero of the film is the music, which is pitch-perfect right up to the final credit. Supporting efforts from familiar actors — who are outside their respective comfort zones — adds an entirely new level of world-building to this New Orleans set fever dream. Amirpour films her script with the effervescence of a 2010 Terrence Malick, and the resulting project is as engaging as it is specific.

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Mona Lisa (Jeon Jong-seo) escapes the confines of a mental facility using only her mind. Once out, she is literally lost for words and, with nowhere to go, turns to street hustler Fuzz (Ed Skrein). After getting what she wants from him, Mona Lisa wanders off toward a diner. In a misguided effort to break up a fight, she saves her soon-to-be friend Bonnie (Kate Hudson) while gravely injuring her opponent. When Bonnie realizes the extent of Mona Lisa’s power, she starts to take advantage of her and the two go on a robbing spree hypnotizing countless men out of as much money as possible. Bonnie’s neglected son Charlie (Evan Whitten) eventually sees that Mona Lisa is being exploited. He strikes up a friendship with Mona Lisa that goes on to rival his connection with his mom. All the while, Officer Harold (Craig Robinson) is the only law enforcement agent bold enough to follow up on a supernatural crime and is hot on the trails of Mona Lisa, Bonnie, and Charlie.

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Amirpour proved she had a vibe unique to her with 2016’s The Bad Batch. The film boasts a rare Jim Carey sighting, some of Jason Mamoa’s best work to date, and a barren landscape filled with untrustworthy characters. Mona Lisa and The Blood Moon is a step in that same direction, but with New Orleans as the backdrop. The tone of the film rarely shifts and the director deserves credit for sticking to her guns. It pays off because certain aspects, like Ed Skrien’s character, would make no sense in another film. Off-kilter performances, wide-angle lenses, and incredible music make for a world unto itself. If one squints hard enough, there's a superhero origin story present in the film — a young girl with powers escapes prison to steal money from men, many of whom suck.

The film’s casting is also a stroke of brilliance. When The Office alum Craig Robinson is cast in a non-comedic role, one might think he is out of his depth or cast as comedic relief. Mona Lisa and The Blood Moon subverts these expectations. It takes a lot of confidence and supreme execution to pull off, and Amirpour does not disappoint. The driving force of Mona Lisa And The Blood Moon is the music. The soundtrack is blistering electronic melodies that put one in a terrifying trance. Joe Rudge's choice of music makes for a perfect blend of Daniele Luppi's score and the film's soundtrack. Each scene feels like the end of a party one should have left hours prior. The claustrophobic nature of the script and the singularity of the main character give the music in Mona Lisa and The Blood Moon purpose and swagger.

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Amirpour’s third feature isn’t perfect, but it has all the hallmarks of what is becoming her signature style — a great soundtrack, actors in roles they haven’t played before, and a female lead on a daring quest, just to name a few. Jeon Jong-seo caught American audiences by surprise with her fabulous turn in Burning and extends on that good faith as a lead in Amirpour's film. Mona Lisa and The Blood Moon is a tightrope of horror, revenge, and feminism set to awesome music.

2022-09-30T14:41:32.000Z

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