The first time I saw B. Monkey (at the Ghent Film Festival in 1998), I was amazed at how many people had come to see this action movie starring Asia Argento.
Of course it wasn’t because of Asia’s charismatic performances this movie was so popular, but because it was the latest film by Michael Radford, director of Il Postino (next to Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulin and the horrible La Vita E Bella one of the longest running movies in the last fifteen years).
From Il Postino to B. Monkey was a weird step and perhaps one of the reasons why B. Monkey gets so many negative reviews. I’m well aware that this movie is a male-oriented dream of escapism, but when the result is a movie like this, one wants to take a lot for granted.
B. Monkey was based on a novel by Andrew Davies who has been writing since the late 60s and has penned many scripts for well-known productions such as the script for the Bridget Jones Diary and the lesbian BBC drama Tipping The Velvet. He knows how to tell a story and perhaps this is why, in my opinion, B. Monkey is so much better than the usual drama where a delinquent girl meets an honest man and decides to better her life (genders may be changed here). Even though you can predict the big lines of the story, you’re still surprised at certain plot changes.
Alan (Wayne Wang favourite Jarid Harris) and Beatrice (Asia ‘daughter of’ Argento) couldn’t be further apart: she’s a bank-robbing criminal, he teaches poor kids and has a jazz show on hospital radio. Once again something that makes you realize that this movie walks a thin line between good cinema and a third-rate tv’s movie of the week. Believable acting by Harris, Argento and, not to forget, Rupert Everett helps the movie to stay on the right part of that thin line.
The key to this film is clearly not expecting anything, certainly not something like Il Postino. It’s good boy saving girl that may not be bad, but definitely dealing with baddies. Male escapism, as I said earlier. But why shouldn’t that exist, uncomfortably next to romcoms?