Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

My Name is Modesty

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
4 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Alexandra Staden as Modesty Blaise
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Miklos
Raymond Cruz as Garcia
Fred Pearson as Professor Lob
Valentin Teodosiu as Louche
Eugenia Yuan as Irina
Ion Haiduc as High Roller
Bogdan Dumitrescu as Boutellis
Marcello Cobzarju as Charopos
Dragos Bucur as Janos
Dan Astileanu as Squad Leader
Damian Oancea as Sympathetic Man
Mihai Bisericanu as Stassi

Special Features:
Audio Commentary with writers Lee Batchler & Janet Scott Batchler

Audio Commentary with Director Scott Spiegel & Producer Ted Nicolaou

Creating the Ultimate Herione: The Making of My Name Is Modesty

A Conversation with Peter O'Donnell

A Retrospective of Modesty Blaise Comics and Artwork

A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino & Scott Spiegel

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 78 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is based on the long running Modesty Blaise comic strip from Europe. This is the origin story of the character.

Modesty Blaise is a smart, well educated, independent woman working for a casino owner in Morocco. Despite helping him cheat winning customers and aiding him in certain illegal activities, she has her own code of ethics which she lives by. She tries to keep her employer, Louche, in line while he acts as a father figure to her.

When Louche is killed in the street by another gangster named Miklos, the young murderer returns to the casino to rob the vault. He and his goons proceed to take Modesty and the rest of the casino staff hostage. Modesty does her best to stall for time until help can arrive. Thus begins a psychological game of cat and mouse between Miklos and Modesty. Intrigued by this tough, brave woman, Miklos has Modesty tell her life's story.

We learn about how she was an orphan in the war torn Balkans and how she was taken in by a mysterious old man. He taught her how to fight, educated her, and instilled in her a code of honor. But will all her skills be enough to help her survive hr encounter with Miklos?

"My Name is Modesty" is rated R for violence.

The Movie:
I have to say that I went into this movie knowing nothing more than what was on the DVD cover. I was expecting an action packed spy adventure in the spirit of Alias. I was wrong. Despite the explosions and men with guns on the cover, there is almost no action in this film. Only the last 4 minutes have any sort of fight scene. The film also declares Modesty to be a "lethal female secret agent". Well, she's not even a secret agent in this movie. In short, what you have is a psychological character drama filmed on a low budget and a tight schedule which is ultimately nothing more than a setup for greater adventures promised down the road.

Modesty Blaise is a long running comic strip character that I had never heard of. From the DVD bonus features, I gather it is a European strip. I could be wrong. Anyway, this film focuses on the origin of the character. Unfortunately, this is not the most interesting aspect of the character. From what I've heard, Miramax had the rights to make movies with this character and, for whatever reason, they needed to whip a film out quickly or they would lose the rights. This movie was made to retain those rights. Will Miramax make a grander, more interesting Modesty Blaise movie down the road? It sounds like they want to. (It also sounds like there have been Modesty Blaise films in the past that haven't been up to par, either.) In the meantime, though, this film doesn't really give me much excitement about the character. I think the only people that are going to be interested in "My Name is Modesty" are established Modesty Blaise fans. There are other, cooler, kick butt female secret agents out there to turn to.

Alexandra Staden didn't really impress me much as Modesty Blaise. I didn't find her all that attractive and when she finally was able to do fight scenes at the end, I didn't buy it. Her punches didn't look all that powerful and she's so skinny that I didn't believe that she could physically overpower a strong young man. I think there were probably better options out there. Her lines also weren't that great. She repeatedly lies to Miklos, then almost immediately changes her story. It happens so many times even I was wondering why Miklos just didn't shoot her or torture her for information. After all, he's a cold blooded killer, right? Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is OK as Miklos, but not spectacular. He looks good in the role, but he doesn't have good lines to work with either. Late in the story he becomes sympathetic with Modesty as he hears her life story, but I can't say I bought that, either. Unfortunately, none of the other supporting cast members are that memorable.

As you learn in the bonus features, this movie was filmed in 18 days in Eastern Europe. While I wasn't that impressed with the final product, I was impressed with what they were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. With limited time and budget, they were able to do quite a bit. They made the most of their locations as well.

In the end, I can't really recommend this film to many people beyond Modesty Blaise fans. It's very apparent that this movie is just a place holder until they can do something better with the movie rights.

The Extras:
There are quite a few extras on this DVD which was a surprise to me:

Audio Commentary with writers Lee Batchler & Janet Scott Batchler In the writers' commentary, they get heavy into the Modesty Blaise comic character, the thoughts behind creator Peter O'Donnell, the thoughts behind the script, and more. If you're interested more in the story and character, this is the commentary that you're going to want to listen to.

Audio Commentary with Director Scott Spiegel & Producer Ted Nicolaou Spiegel and Nicolau spend more of their time talking about the actual filming of the movie than the story. They discuss the locations, the challenges of shooting under such limiting constraints, and more. If you're interested in the filmmaker perspective on the making of the film, this is the one you'll want to listen to.

Creating the Ultimate Herione: The Making of My Name is Modesty This is a 15 minute or so film on the making of the movie. They talk with Alexandra Staden quite a bit about the character as behind the scenes footage rolls in the background. You see them rehearsing scenes, discussing locations, and more.

A Conversation with Peter O'Donnell This documentary is a surprising 1 hour in running time. It shows Modesty Blaise creator Peter O'Donnell talking about how he created the comic strip, the character, and more. When I saw him on the screen I got a quick sense of just how old the comic strip was. He's quite old himself. If you like Modesty Blaise you should get quite a kick out of hearing him reminisce.

A Retrospective of Modesty Blaise Comics and Artwork This is nothing more than some text files summarizing some of the Modesty Blaise stories. I have to say I'd be more interested in seeing the comic strip than reading these, but they're here if you want to learn more about the character.

A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino & Scott Spiegel It quickly becomes obvious that Quentin Tarantino was the driving force behind this film despite that fact that he didn't seem to play any actual role in the making of the movie. In any case, he describes here what a big fan he is of the comic and how he got involved with Spiegel in getting the movie made. This featurette is quite extensive as well. If I remember correctly, it was around 45 minutes long.

The Bottom Line:
My Name is Modesty is only for Modesty Blaise comic strip fans. The film is slow and not terribly interesting. Viewers who are not die hard fans can find better kick-butt femme fatales elsewhere.

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