My Name is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure (2003) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for violence and some sexuality
Running Time: 78 min.
Cast: Alexandra Staden, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Raymond Cruz, Fred Pearson, Valentin Teodosiu, Eugenia Yuan
Director: Scott Spiegel
Screenplay: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler
Review published October 11, 2004
My Name is Modesty isn't a full-fledged movie so much as it is a preview of a proposed series of Modesty Blaise adventures to come --- a companion piece, if you will. Based on the comic strip and novel series by Peter O'Donnell, the scoop on this slight film is that Miramax needed to get some sort of movie out there before their retention on the rights for the franchise lapsed. Rushed into production, My Name is Modesty was shot in Romania in under three weeks, and slated to be a straight-to-video production to get the Modesty Blaise name and franchise out there for the public. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the cheaply produced film is that is actually isn't half bad.
The film starts off in the Balkans, where a young, homeless orphan learns how to survive in the war-torn environs. Flash forward to today in Tangiers, where the girl is now a woman called Modesty Blaise (Staden), working in a casino in for an underworld figure named Louche. Louche (Teodosiu) gets offed by some gun-toting baddies led by Miklos (Coster-Waldau, Wimbledon), who proceed to to storm the casino and take all of the employees hostage, threatening to kill them all if they do not get the combination to open Louche's casino vault. Modesty uses all of her street smarts to try to save her fellow employees, as well as the casino, ultimately resulting in a dangerous game of roulette between the two crafty leaders of their respective factions.
There is a decidedly low budget feel to the film, very much reminiscent of a made for television style, with video camera textures and limited sets. The acting is stiff, with the possible exception of a good charismatic villain in Coster-Waldau. Staden makes for a statuesque Modesty Blaise, but outside of her good looks and lean build, she has difficulty showing any range of emotion outside of stoicism, and the few scenes where she has to engage in showing her prowess in martial arts are amateurishly handled. Shot in only 18 days, My Name is Modesty is very much a rushed production, like a first draft to a proposed feature length film that they ran out of money to produce.
Yet, for all of its flaws, it works in its own small-scale fashion. The characters have some complexity to them, and the character development is aided to flashbacks of Modesty's childhood every now and then to break up the one-room setting in the casino.
Let's face it. My Name is Modesty is an appetizer waiting for a full-course meal, which I assume will be forthcoming. It's doubtful that any big budget productions will necessitate watching this movie to understand, so this one is strictly for fans of Modesty Blaise, or for the insatiably curious. With a modest production, modest actors, and a modest delivery, My Name is Modesty gets a recommendation from me -- but just a modest one.
©2004 Vince Leo