B. Monkey is True Romance, with European accents.
It is a violent fairy-tale romance of a movie which
requires a complete suspension of disbelief. It is very
much an Anglicized version of Tarantino's True Romance,
which paired a mild comic store clerk with a hooker who
came from an ugly world of drugs and violence. In this
version of the fairy tale, a meek school teacher and a
hardened criminal meet, slowly fall in love, then have
the joint challenge of trying to find a life that suits
them both. He is a mild-mannered romantic, who is a
quiet scholar and a caregiver for very young children,
but somehow gets mixed up with the ultimate Eurotrash
scoundrel, B. Monkey, an armed robber with a body full
of tattoos, a hard gaze, a whisky alto voice, gun-totin'
junkie pals, and a penchant to write her name on every
railroad bridge in London.
The school teacher is played by Jared Harris, who should
be studied by geneticists, because he must be some kind
of mutant. His father is Richard Harris. Now, I ask you,
has there ever been a more flamboyant actor than Dad? He
was one of my favorites, but I believe he has managed to
go his entire career without ever delivering a line in a
normal, conversational tone. An ex-girlfriend of mine
was once describing a scene to me in which an actor was
having a long, loud argument with God because the
Almighty had sent an unwanted thunderstorm. I don't know
who she was talking about, and neither did she, but I
could only picture Richard Harris doing such a scene.
The Roman historian Suetonius reported that the emperor
Caligula once had a fight with Neptune, in which he
paraded around the shallows, stabbing the sea with his
sword. As far as I know, Harris never played that scene.
I believe I have seen John Hurt and Malcolm McDowell
actually doing that scene, maybe others as well, but
Harris should have been the one. He is the one who plays
it in my mind, when I imagine it. Have there been many
actors with more emotion and sentiment pouring from them
than Limerick's Man called Horse? OK, maybe Peter
O'Toole in his later films, based on pure
sentimentality, but for sheer, rich emotional output,
Richard Harris always delivered the goods.
So the genetic question is - "What happened to Richard's
son, Jared, who seems to be soft-spoken, sedate, and
modest?" On Mad Men he was the firm's nerdy
bean-counter. In this film, Jared plays a grade school
teacher with an introspection and subtlety that were
never seen anywhere in his dad's career. The teacher is
quietly concerned about an abused boy in his class, and
he plays the trumpet mildly and quietly for the children
he loves. At night, he spins some mellow jazz classics
at a non-profit radio station in a hospital, offering
piano bar introductions like "this one goes out to all
On the other hand, the genetics worked out correctly for
the female lead. B. Monkey is played by Asia Argento,
who is as frightening as she is beautiful, and is
unmistakably the daughter of Italy's genre film master,
Ultimately the mismatched romance between the lead
characters is complicated by the fact that her former
life just won't disappear completely, in the cinema
tradition of bad girls who want to reform. As in True
Romance, the clean-cut, meek, law-abiding character
ultimately has to stand up to the baddies from his
lover's former world.
Of course, none of it is credible.
(1) As in True Romance, none of the
characters in B. Monkey are meant to be representative
of people we might know, perhaps not of anyone at all.
B wakes up from two days of vomiting and feverish
dreams, but looks like she just stepped from the cover
of Vogue, her hair neat, her lip gloss perfect, her
eye make-up unmussed. In another scene, the lovers are
at the deserted white cliffs of Dover, a scene filled
with the feeling of vast empty space and natural
colors - except for a bright pink ice cream truck.
What the hell was it doing there? Certainly not
selling much ice cream, since there were no people to
(2) The dialogue is also unrealistic. It's
half-crazed, sounding either like lunatic ranting or
like beatnik love poetry.
(3) It is also not possible to relate to the
But it's not meant to be credible. Despite all those
unrealistic elements, I felt the movie worked well both
as an entertainment, and an aesthetic work. It's a
lyrical, sad, ultimately hopeful fairy tale about
mismatched lovers who want to create their own peaceful
life away from their urban blight. It is a jazz-poem in
images, a strange moody saxophone solo of a movie about
the loneliness of modern city life. The score features
Django, Coltrane, and Gershwin; the cinematography
features outstanding rural and urban exteriors. I liked
pretty much everything about it except the requisite
over-the-top finale in which every character had a gun
pointed at some other character, and they all started
blasting away (another element it shared with True
The distributors found absolutely no market for this in
America. There were a few test screenings, but people
didn't like it, so it received a half-hearted,
unmarketed release in a handful of theaters, and scored
almost a complete goose egg at the box office.
In my opinion, it is an underappreciated film.
And, as you see above, there is plenty of hot Asia
Argento nudity, including a coochie shot (see below)