Monika: A Wrong Way to Die

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“She spits on your grave.”

monikaI’m still in two minds as to whether the ending here is utter genius, or the worst cop-out since the entire seventh series of Dallas turned out to be a dream. You could argue a case for either, and I could see your point. On the one hand, there’s a case it renders the previous 80 minutes irrelevant. On the other, it’s also a mindbending twist, which deserves points for sheer audacity, and going to that well, not once but twice. However, the main problem is a central character who is a good deal less interesting than the femme fatale after whom the film is named.

Reagan (Wiles) heads to Vegas after his pal Double (C. Thomas Howell) sends him a pic of the titular hot chick, and tells him she is keen to hook up. On arrival, Reagan doesn’t find his friend; however, he does find Monika (Vincent), and a night of drinking, dancing and making the double-backed armadillo follows. The next morning, she’s gone, and when Reagan meets Double, he’s in for a shock, because he learns that Monika had, apparently, been gunned down the night before. She was the victim of Terry Joe (Branson), a local drug dealer from whom she had stolen a large sum of money, putting him in deep trouble with his boss, Eli (Howard). So, what the hell is going on here? We know that Reagan claims to have “visions,” which sometimes can be premonitions of future events? Is that what he’s seeing? Or is there an alternative explanation, which may or may not be more prosaic?

This isn’t Monroe’s first stab at the action heroine genre. He also gave us It Waits, which I summed up with the pithy, “It sucks.” This isn’t as bad, so I guess he has made some progress over the intervening seven years. There are some interesting aspects to be found and appreciated here, even things which don’t have any significant impact on the plot. For instance, Eli is actually English, but puts on a faux American accent some of the time. Why? It’s never explained, and that’s half the joy. Monika herself is also a fine creation, battling her way through Terry Joe and his minions , with an eye for style and no real regard for her own personal safety. Either of these would have made for a better focus than Reagan, who is very much reactive, rather than pro-active. By which I mean, he responds to the narrative as it unfolds, rather than driving it, and thus makes for an unsatisfying central character. Reagan seems to exist solely to execute the final twists, serving little or no other purpose, and I also have to agree with other reviewers, who have criticized the dialogue as clumsy and poorly-written. Overall, it just about passes muster as a way to occupy the time, providing you’re in an undemanding mood. But I can’t guarantee you’ll be as tolerant of the ending as I was.

Dir: Steven R. Monroe
Star: Jason Wiles, Cerina Vincent, Jeff Branson, Andrew Howard
a.k.a. MoniKa

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