Riding high on having directed the Oscar-nominated Il Postino
     (The Postman)
, Michael Radford followed with this character study
     about a female jewel thief involved in a kinky menage-a-trois who
     suddenly finds herself being courted by a Alan, jazz-loving schoolteacher.
     Can Beatrice (a.k.a
B Monkey--so named for a tattoo on her shoulder)
     give up her exciting life and settled down to domesticity? That's
     essentially the central conflict of this film based on Andrew Davies'
     novel of the same name. That it took some three years to get into
     the theaters is a story unto itself. What has arrived is a stylish but
     uneven film, part romance, part crime drama, resulting in a
     schizophrenic movie that one will either embrace or reject.

             Radford is a fine director and he knows how to keep the story
     moving but I was a bit confused by the goings-on. The title role
      was tailored to Italian actress Asia Argento and she gives a strong
     performance as the tough chick/femme fatale. With her luxuriant dark
     hair, luscious lips and sexy moves, it is easy to understand why the
     men in the film could fall for her, particularly Jared Harris' milquetoast
     Alan. Where I got really confused was her actual relationships with her
     partners, Paul, a louche aristocrat (a perfectly cast, if mumbling,
     Rupert Everett) and the younger Bruno (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who
     has done better work elsewhere). It seems that Paul and Bruno may
     be lovers but then the impression is given that Bruno and Paul each
     both love Beatrice as well. Perhaps it was deliberately left as
     ambiguous, but I found it frustrating.

             What does work, thanks in no small part to Harris and Argento
     is the central story of their love affair. Onscreen chemistry is a rare
     commodity but these two actors managed to achieve it. In fact,
     Argento possessed great chemistry with Everett and Rhys Meyers
     as well. She clearly relished the opportunity to inhabit this character's
     skin and took full advantage of it. Harris has the tougher time as he
     is, in effect, playing the passive feminine role. Alan is presented
     as sensitive and caring, and highly unlikely to mix it up with the
     likes of Everett and Rhys Meyers. When he is in their world, he is
     the ultimate fish-out-of-water, but though he seems not to fully
     understand the depth of B's ties to these men, he is willing
     to tolerate them.

             Radford stages several sequences well, particularly a jewel
     heist that gets complicated. He also manages to maintain a consistent
     tone and look to the film, abetted by director of photography Ashley Rowe,
     whose work highlights the shifting moods via the use of light and
     shadows and production designer Sophie Becher.
B Monkey isn't
     necessarily my kind of woman, but I can see her appeal, thanks
     in no small part to Argento's stellar work. She manages to hold
     the audiences interest even when the story flags. She a jewel thief
     who herself is a sparkler.

                                             Rating:        C
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.