Stormy Monday (1988) (film review).

‘Stormy Monday’ is a gangster film set in northern England, Tyneside to be precise. It’s ‘America Week’ and the local Council is sucking up to Mister Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones), a businessman who plans some new development on the harbour-side. There are hints of corruption. The celebrations take place at the Royal Station Hotel.

One of his assistants is Katie (Melanie Griffiths), whose job is to be nice to people. She collides with Brendan (Sean Bean) in a shopping precinct and they exchange ‘the look’. Brendan gets a job with nightclub owner, Mister Finney (Sting), and is asked to go and pick up a Polish jazz band from the airport. The band are supposed to be good. They play ‘free jazz’ which I would rate on a level with ‘free verse.’ Beware any art form with ‘free’ in the title. They will be staying at the same hotel where the America Week celebrations culminate and Brendan sees Katie again and again when he goes to a restaurant where she is a waitress. Its fate and he asks her out for a drink. It turns out the Mister Cosmo is moving in on Mister Finney and a couple of neat plot twists get Brendan and Katie involved with nefarious bad guys.

This is a quality movie for reasons examined in depth in the Extra feature, ‘Stormy Monday Thirty years On’ by film critic Neil Young. It was both written and directed by Mike Figgis and was his first big picture. Hitherto, he had only been involved in low budget art productions before. This started off low budget but Melanie Griffith (daughter of Tippi Hedren) was a rising star and more money came forth. Her contract let her choose the love interest and she opted for Sean Bean. Tommy Lee Jones was at a low point in his career and glad of the work. Sting was trying his hand at acting after The Police split up the year before. It would take a mighty big budget to get this dream cast nowadays.

American gangsters coming to Britain has echoes of ‘The Long Good Friday’ and the Tyneside setting reminds you of ‘Get Carter’, probably the two best British gangster films of the era, if not ever. ‘Stormy Monday’ isn’t the same sort of film because the love story plays a bigger part. It’s also not quite as good as them but could stand on the podium for a bronze medal and not hang its head in shame. Definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it and we should be glad of the re-release of this period classic. As there are no robots, spaceships or dragons in it I’m not sure why they sent it to SFCrowsnest but it was good anyway.

Eamonn Murphy

September 2017

(Blu-ray region B/2: pub: Arrow Video. 1 blu-ray disk 93 minute film. I DVD extras. Price: £14.99 (UK). ASIN: B0722D2YFK)

cast: Sean Bean, Sting, Tommy Lee Jones and Melanie Griffith

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