Even in a weird year, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is a particularly strange movie. A girl in a New Orleans psychiatric hospital with telekinetic powers and a thirst for blood is on the loose. The vibrant city — and chaos — await.
Starring Jeon Jong-Seo (Burning) as the titular Mona, Craig Robinson as bumbling Officer Harold and a glittering (literally) Kate Hudson as risqué nightclub dancer Bonnie, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is part social study, mostly spooky spectacle. Director Ana Lily Amirpour is unafraid to be deeply silly with her direction and irreverent in comedy style. Though there are references to the schlocky horror canon, Mona Lisa is the opposite of deferent. If Nicolas Cage co-starred, it wouldn’t be a bad fit.
Frankly, not much is. Hudson and Robinson are bulletproof dramedy performers more than happy to dip into their hammy Glee and The Office turns, respectively. Jong-Seo brings the weightier dramatic performance we know she’s capable of. But the exciting young Korean actress nails the comedy, too. In a mostly quiet role dependent on body language and earnest interplay with Bonnie’s punky son Charlie (Evan Whitten), she’s the standout.
Another, a little more surprisingly, is Ed Skrein as drug dealer and overall vibes-bringer Fuzz. The Logan and Deadpool actor is genuinely touching as a symbol of New Orleans’ seedy underbelly — and sweet core. It’s not quite the revelation Simon Rex in Red Rocket proved to be, but it’s not miles off.
Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon has, in recent weeks, gone on the kind of adventure it’s protagonist would relish. Venice, Toronto and now London beckon. Audiences have largely loved it, and it’s easy to see why. Amirpour has made her most genre-friendly movie yet in a competitive time for lo-fi fantasy. Doubling down on its B-movie sensibility — and casting A-movie talent — has paid off.