She’s a sexy, dissolute, punked-out London jewel thief with a spider monkey tattooed on her shoulder. He’s a bookish, corduroy-sports-coated grade school teacher whose hobby is spinning Django Reinhardt records as a late-night hospital DJ. What happens when the two hook up? For openers, she tosses that jacket right out the window.
B. Monkey is one of those love stories about a dangerous babe and a cautious dweeb in which you never completely believe what’s going on. I did believe it in ”Something Wild,” which traced its hero’s evolution into a knight of the underworld step by perilous step, and I believed it as well in one of the most underrated films of the ’80s, Jean-Jacques Beineix’s ”Betty Blue,” the tale of a femme fatale undone by the very quality that makes her intoxicating — her savage instability.
In ”B. Monkey,” which marks a major shift of gears for director Michael Radford (”Il Postino”), Beatrice (Asia Argento), known as B. Monkey, and Alan (Jared Harris) are opposite lost souls who connect in a swoony, explosive love affair of very late-’90s wish fulfillment. He tries to save her from her two treacherous comrades, in armed robbery and in bed; they’re played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers (from ”Velvet Goldmine”) as a seething psycho renegade and Rupert Everett as an exquisitely morose fop. She, meanwhile, tries to save him from the oblivion of being a nice guy. The surprise is who wins.
You may roll your eyes a bit at the glib, transparent, indie-grunge romanticism of ”B. Monkey,” but it helps to have actors as accomplished as Harris, whose becalmed rectitude grows feistier as the movie unspools, and Argento (daughter of the cult Italian horror director Dario Argento), who looks like a Euro Winona Ryder and is just subtle enough not to overplay the babe-in-black-leather poses.