The Monkey's Mask (2000)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film, Gay & Lesbian Films  |   Release Date - Jul 27, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 84 min.  |   Countries - Australia , Canada , France , Italy , Japan   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Todd Kristel

The basic premise of The Monkey's Mask is to twist film noir conventions by making the tough-talking detective a lesbian, setting the murder in the seamy underside of the poetry world, and including as much steamy sex as possible in the movie. However, the result isn't fully satisfying as either a murder mystery or soft porn, although the film fares much better as the latter. Lack of suspense is a major problem; while the film has some strong points (e.g. the cinematography), its pace is too slow, the detective story is rife with clich├ęs, the tangled details of the case are never properly explained, the characters and their relationships are woefully underdeveloped, and the narrative lacks a sense of urgency. The film makes it harder to care deeply about the victim by limiting the background information about her life and her relationship with her parents; the detective doesn't seem passionate about her case and stumbles across clues instead of finding them through sharp investigative work; and the movie doesn't build much dramatic tension, not even when the detective's own life seems to be threatened. Furthermore, setting the story in the poetry milieu only serves to exacerbate the movie's ponderous tone and give the filmmakers an excuse to feature some truly awful dialogue. Poetry may have been an important part of Dorothy Porter's novel, but it translates poorly to the screen. Fortunately, Susie Porter seems just right for her role as the detective. She's attractive in a natural, understated, unglamorous way; she has the appropriate tough-but-vulnerable attitude; and she seems believable as a sincere, but not particularly astute, private eye who lets her heart (or at least her libido) distract her from her case. Unfortunately, the filmmakers also seem to have been distracted from the case, and the sex scenes aren't quite steamy enough to compensate for such an uninvolving story.