In “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon” (Saban Films), which can be best described as “Stranger Things” meets “Hustlers”, Kate Hudson continues her career comeback of 2022.
The third full-length feature from writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour (“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”) is an unexpected showcase for Hudson, as well as her fellow castmates.
Set in New Orleans, “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon” opens while Mona Lisa Lee (Jeon Jong-seo) is a straitjacketed patient in a padded cell in an Advanced Security Unit. After turning the tables on an abusive nurse, using mind control to cause the nurse to stab herself multiple times with a pedicure tool, Mona Lisa escapes the facility.
With no set destination, Mona Lisa encounters a variety of surprisingly helpful people along the way. A trio of stoners gives her a pair of shoes. A drug dealer/DJ named Fuzz (hot Ed Skrein) gets her something to eat at a convenience store.
After finishing dinner in a Chinese restaurant, where his ominous fortune cookie fortune reads “Forget what you know,” police officer Harold (Craig Robinson) is alerted via radio about a “violent Asian female” who escaped from the home for “Mentally Insane Adolescents.”
As luck would have it, Harold’s first encounter with Mona Lisa near the convenience store doesn’t go well and she makes him shoot himself in the leg. On the run, again, Mona Lisa comes to the aid of Bonnie (Hudson) in a diner parking lot, where Bonnie’s getting her ass kicked by a woman whose boyfriend was checking her out. Bonnie repays Mona Lisa with a diner meal, and they head down to Bourbon Street where Bonnie works as a stripper at The Panty Drop.
Mona Lisa again comes to Bonnie’s aid by getting a group of cheap frat boys to greatly increase the amount of their original lap-dance tip. Returning Mona Lisa’s kindness, Bonnie offers her a place to stay; on the couch in the house she shares with her 11-year-old son Charlie (Evan Whitten). Charlie, who is very bright, is initially suspicious of Mona Lisa, but when she takes care of a school bully for him, they bond. It doesn’t, however, improve his antagonistic relationship with his mother.
There’s a lot of back and forth between Harold’s pursuit of Mona Lisa and the development of the friendship between Bonnie and Mona Lisa. Soon Bonnie convinces Mona Lisa to use her gifts to stage a series of profitable ATM hold-ups, which only increases Harold’s determination to capture Mona Lisa.
Before long, things begin to go wrong. Bonnie’s co-strippers are suspicious of the amount of money she’s raking in while their tips decline. Bonnie is also cornered and assaulted by the frat boys who demand their money be returned.
Meanwhile, Fuzz offers to help Mona Lisa, and by extension Charlie, get out of New Orleans to somewhere safer, leading to a tense confrontation at the Louis Armstrong Airport. The relatively happy ending, including a reunion and a getaway, somehow avoids feeling pat, due in part to the strong performances.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.