For all my comic geek credentials, I know precious little about Modesty Blaise beyond the fact that she was a character in a newspaper adventure strip. I had to refer to wikipedia for more details of Modesty’s life before this film.
My Name is Modesty is quite true to the character’s previous appearances, even if creator Peter O’Donnell isn’t entirely happy with it. It isn’t, however, the film the box art promises. Rather than a caper-ish story of espionage and spy-jinks we get something that looks like the feature length first episode of an abandoned Alias rip off television series. It’s “presented” by Quentin Tarantino, but more because he wants to use the character himself than for any artistic merits of the film.
Her casino and gang controlling boss killed in an ambush, Modesty must protect her employees from a man intent on stealing the funds of an upcoming drug deal. Bartering hostages against questions she challenges him to roulette- the holder of the most chips after every three spins getting to ask something or see someone go free. Losing a lot more than she ought to, Modesty gives up the story of her early life- how she was a child in the Balkans who escaped a camp with mentor and father figure Lob and finally came into the employment of gang leader Henri Louche.
The film’s pacing is stilted and there’s no real tension. The roulette game, which could have been an interesting moment in amongst action scenes, is dragged out for far too long. Only at the very end do we get to see the Modesty we’ve been promised, and then it’s not as well choreographed as you’d hope.
The actors were all a bit wooden, and they weren’t helped by a basic script. Leading lady Alexandra Staden is attractive in a refreshingly non-Hollywood way, if a little frail and pale for someone who spent her adolescence and early adulthood trekking around the Mediterannean. I’d like to see more of her as an action heroine, but in a role that suggested more English rose with extra thorns than feral kid from the Balkans made good.
More Modesty Blaise stories.