B. Monkey

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeTheftBars and ClubsDining and DrinkingRadio IndustryJonathan Rhys Meyers

Friday September 10, 1999

     "B. Monkey" takes its title from the nickname of its heroine, a beautiful, fearless Italian-born jewel thief (Asia Argento) who swoops down on posh London jewelry stores and scoops up the goodies with the greatest of ease. She works with an equally nervy young guy, Bruno (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and they in turn work for and live with Paul (Rupert Everett, ever the charming wastrel), an aristocrat who's made a career of supplying drugs to celebrities only to devour his profits, not to mention his inheritance, by becoming his own best customer.
     Bruno and Paul are lovers, Paul and B. share a deep platonic love, and all three live in the messy grandeur of Paul's venerable Chelsea apartment. To celebrate Bruno's birthday, they head for a pub, where Paul announces he's throwing Bruno out for stealing. Fireworks ensue, and among the observers in the pub is Alan (Jared Harris), a rangy, attractive grade-school teacher who moonlights as a DJ on a hospital radio station. His sedate life is about to change abruptly, for he is transfixed by the dark beauty and magnetic presence of B. When they cross paths at the pub some months later, Alan, who has never stopped thinking about her, approaches her. As it happens, he connects with her at the very moment that her thrill with living on the edge is beginning to ebb and her survival instincts are telling her she'd better quit while she's ahead.
     They click, they take off for a weekend in Paris, and the question quickly becomes: Can a jewel thief settle down and find happiness with a teacher who's great with kids and loves his work? "B. Monkey" sounds like vintage Claude Lelouch, and he might well have made a more convincing movie of Michael Thomas and Chloe King's script from a novel by Andrew Davies than "Il Postino" director Michael Radford has. That's not to say "B. Monkey" isn't fun in its delirious way, but Lelouch has an absolute belief in his material and in the dictates of fate, coupled with an insight into criminal mentality and, when he's in top form, a deftness in playing moments of documentary-like realism against sweeping, swoony romantic flourishes. In short, the veteran French director at his go-for-broke best can be amazingly persuasive in creating a seductive suspension of disbelief, a goal that here tends to elude Radford more often than not.
     In the time-honored fashion of movie crooks trying to go straight, B. has a tougher time putting her past behind her than she had imagined. The occasional rush of a heist proves hard to resist, and then there's the tug of her loyal feelings for Paul, who's deeply in debt to East End gangster Frank (Tim Woodward), who also wouldn't mind making use of B.'s formidable skills. As B.'s resolve begins to waver, Alan becomes increasingly determined to take her away from it all, for a rural existence in Yorkshire. Without going into detail, you know very well that's not going to be the end of it.
     The chemistry between Argento, who has a stylish presence as compelling as her father Dario Argento's horror pictures, and Harris is instantaneous and palpable. As skilled, resourceful actors, they make B. and Alan a more believable couple than you would have thought possible. If only "B. Monkey," as sleek as it is, were as easy to believe in as its two lovers.


B. Monkey, 1999. R, for strong sexuality and language, and for violence and drug content. A Miramax and Scala presentation of a Scala/Synchronist Pictures production. Producers Colin Vaines, Stephen Woolley. Co-executive producers Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein. Executive producer Nik Powell. Screenplay by Michael Thomas and Chloe King; from a novel by Andrew Davies. Cinematographer Ashley Rowe. Editor Joelle Hache. Music Jennie Muskett. Costumes Valentine Breton des Loys. Production designer Sophie Becher. Art director David Hindle. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. Asia Argento as B. (Beatrice). Jared Harris as Alan. Rupert Everett as Paul. Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Bruno.

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