Modesty Done Right -- Who'd'a Thunk It?
Daniel H. Bigelow | Cathlamet, WA USA | 10/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For fans of Peter O'Donnell's character Modesty Blaise, screen adaptations have been very frustrating. The Sixties flick sacrificed O'Donnell's vision in favor of the campy cool that was in back then, which entertained fans of Sixties cool while forcing livid Modesty Blaise fans to wonder why the movie's producers bothered to pay good money licensing Blaise if they weren't going to use the Blaise they licensed. A later, barely-noticed small screen adaptation similarly put the beloved name of Blaise to the service of a generic action plot about generic characters.
When the highly regarded moviemaker Quentin Tarantino announced that he was a fan of O'Donnell's books and comics about Blaise and wanted to see the Modesty Blaise property done right on the big screen, that gave fans some hope. But he said that ten years ago, and little has been done since -- until this cheap, direct-to-video Modesty Blaise prequel, which was shot in less than a month solely because Miramax would lose the rights to the property if it hadn't made a movie within a certain time. That's right -- this movie is a hurry-up, zero-budget flick about a character that others couldn't get right on a big budget with plenty of time. And it's a prequel, to boot. A recipe for diaster if there ever was one.
But something went wrong with the recipe, and the movie turned out to be the only one so far that deserves fan approval. While its shoestring budget means low production values that will turn off those who don't care much for the character, the script's fidelity to O'Donnell's vision of Blaise will make fans slap their foreheads and shout, "At last!"
This is mostly due to a faithful script that cleverly manages to work O'Donnell's enjoyable account of Blaise's childhood into a conversation between the teenage Modesty and a sadistic thug who takes her hostage at the casino where she works. Also, care went into casting Modesty. Alexandra Staden is clearly not the athelete Blaise is supposed to be -- for all her slenderness, her arms are flabby -- but she otherwise bears a striking physical resemblance, she carries herself well, and she does a good exotic accent.
For those looking for a high-class flick, though, the low production values will be a sticking point. The movie looks like it was made for ten bucks, and though the script manages to justify the low number of sets, the movie is stagebound enough that justification was required. Plus, the action sequences, though rare (this is more of a suspense movie), are not particularly well-staged or effective. This is definitely direct-to-video fare.
But for Modesty Blaise fans, it is direct-to-video fare that will be a blast, and a relief, to watch. If this much care went into putting the Modesty Blaise that O'Donnell fans know and love into a rinky-dink video just made to preserve the producers' rights to the franchise, then we can have confidence that when they finally manage to make the big-budget one, it will be one the fans will love. (Heck, by that time, Staden may be old enough to play the early-thirties Modesty that movie will require.)"
"What's in a name?"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/30/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It seems fans of the character of Modesty Blaise, created by author Peter O'Donnell, may finally have something worth their wait in this film, My Name Is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure (2003), produced by Quentin Tarantino. While I've noticed some praise for this film, I can't help but wonder how much of it is due to the fact that previous attempts to breathe life into the character (a film in 1966 and a failed 1982 television pilot) were just so awful that they makes this look good by comparison. Keep in mind I've never read the novels or the comic strips so this is my introduction to the character. Directed by Scott Spiegel, the film stars Alexandra Staden as the title character, along with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Black Hawk Down). Also appearing in the film is Raymond Cruz (Clear and Present Danger), Fred Pearson (Dr. Vickery from the TV series Dalziel and Pascoe), and someone named Valentin Teodosiu. Of the actors, Cruz was the only one I recognized, which wasn't necessarily a good thing as I find him somewhat annoying in general, stemming from his role in The Rock (1996) in which his character had the sides of his head shaved, and his remaining top locks pulled back into a little ponytail that just angered me for some reason, but I digress...
As the film begins, there's a scene involving some soldiers and a young girl set in the war torn Balkans. Fast forward a number of years and the girl is now a woman, played by Staden, and holds a position as an adept croupier in a casino somewhere in the Mediterranean. There's some voice over featuring Staden, and we learn a little about her character from this, along with her interaction with various casino workers, including her boss Henri Louche, played by Teodosiu. Seem Louche, along with being a successful business owner, also dabbles in more criminal activities, some of which come back to not only haunt him, but those who work for him as a group of heavily armed men, led by Miklos (Coster-Waldau), break into Louche's casino after closing and attempt to steal money from the casinos vault. Circumstances lead to a lengthy interaction between Modesty and Miklos as the two play an interesting game of roulette where we learn a great deal in regards to Modesty's humble beginnings.
Alright, first of all I think the DVD case is a little misleading...just below the title it states `The origin on the world's most lethal female secret agent'...the character in this film is not a secret agent (and really, I didn't see her becoming one in the future), and even if she was, she'd hardly be the most lethal, although she can fight. Perhaps this was more the case in the novels and strips, but no so here, and obviously this element was pushed to make the film more attractive to the fans. And with regards to the James Bond-like action portrayed on the DVD case...there are no high-speed car chases or huge explosions, in case you've gotten your hopes up. This is an Eastern European production (Romania, I think), and it was shot in like 12 or 13 days. Both of these factors are apparent as the film has an inexpensive, almost gaudy feel, much of the story taking place within the limited casino sets, with the exception of the flashback scenes involving Modesty and her mentor Lob, played by Pearson. Despite the factors I already mentioned (limited budget and production schedule, relatively unknown cast), I think the film turned out pretty well and served as a decent introduction to the character of Modesty (again, I am unfamiliar with the original characters, but what little I could glean seemed to indicate this film was probably more representational with regards to the source material than the film from the 60's). I did like Staden's performance, but something felt odd...perhaps it was the fact she appeared so slender, almost anorexic, and hardly came off as `the world's most lethal female secret agent'. Maybe I just prefer women to be a little less boney...anyway, the script was decent, along with most of the performances, but I did think the story got a little too mired in the middle as Modesty is relating her background story in an effort to stall for time. I think this information could have been passed on much quicker than it was, given the superficialities involved (I know, I know, they were trying to create a sense of a deep, meaningful relationship between Modesty and Lob, but it didn't quite make it through). This, to me, highlighted the weakest part of the film in that of a watered down storyline, which was probably the result of having to complete this project as quickly as they did...according to the Internet Movie Database, the production was as rushed as it was because Miramax was on the verge of losing the rights to the character of Modesty Blaise, so they popped this film out in order to retain the rights, hinting at the possibility of more films to follow. Overall I did feel there was an effort here to be overcome the budgetary and time restraints, and also to appear more realistic to the nature of the original material, so I think this film is deserving of a look, but it would be nice to see a more serious effort put forth in the future to capture all the qualities inherent within the character as originally conceived.
The widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs, looks very good, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound audio comes through clearly. Special features include separate audio tracks featuring the director and producer, and also one with the writers. There's a `making of' piece, and conversations with the creator Peter O'Donnell, along with another featuring Scott Spiegel and Quentin Tarantino. There's also and extensive retrospective of Modesty Blaise comics and artwork, featuring a detailed synopsis of 95 stories.
Modesty Blaise fans rejoice!
Modblaiseguy | 12/09/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For the uninitiated, this film will probably be hit or miss. For diehard Modesty Blaise fans like myself, however, it is manna from heaven. It is Modesty Blaise portrayed as she should be! I was skeptical when I heard it was shot in only 18 days on a low budget and was only 78 minutes long. On viewing it, however, I was more than delightfully surprised. The film is very much in line with the MB history and mystique the way Peter O'Donnell wrote it for so many years, and those in the know will recognize many of the elements (and a couple of characters) that have played a role in the novels and short stories.
Alexandra Staden was previously unknown to me, but she deftly portrays Modesty (a difficult role at best) true to character, though it's obvious the producers should have had her work with a trainer to build up and tone her body prior to filming. One important bit of lore that was overlooked was that Modesty was never shod until she was 14, but it's a small discrepancy to live with given the film's otherwise authentic portrayal of the character and history overall. Watch for the single, character-defining moment when Modesty rips her skirt. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Modesty Blaise fans like me have come to adore and cheer for! My only real complaint? One film is not enough; I want more!"
Best part of movie was Peter Odonnell interview
Marilyn Jones | 08/07/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ive been a Modesty addict since the sixties;
recently reread all and still enjoy them so much.
Hated first movie.
Hopeful about this version.
BUT, allowing for cost and time issues,
I agree with others that the biggest drawback is the
empty and stilted plot.
I admire the effort to inject complexity into the
considering how badly most women action
characters are written.
MY BIG HOPE
For a long time I have been hoping Joss Whedon would produce,
write and direct a full length Modesty movie. His ability
to surround main action character with real life aura and humor
would serve the series well.
Why doesn't Quentin T's mother, a Modesty fan, urge QT in that
ABSOLUTE BEST PART OF THE DVD
was Peter ODonnell describing the Modesty background,
a girl in the desert during the war. It was a vivid and very touching description that clearly resonated for him after all these years and makes clear that the foundations of the Modesty character come from a deep well of feeling.
It would have been an excellent brief flashback word over
in the film, presenting in 1 minute what the film took 40 minutes to do.
people urge QT to get Miramax to offer Modesty rights to Joss."