"My Name Is Modesty"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Alexandra Staden as MODESTY
    Nikolaj Coster Waldau as MIKLOS
    Raymond Cruz as GARCIA
    Fred Pearson as PROFESSOR LOB
    Valentin Teodosiu as LOUCHE
    Eugenia Yuan as IRINA
    Bianca Ana Tudorica as YOUNG MODESTY

    Rated R
    Studio: Miramax

    Directed by: Scott Spiegel
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“My Name Is Modesty” was made by Miramax films in order to keep a hold of their Modesty Blaise option. They needed to make a Modesty Blaise movie fast, but they didn’t have time to do the full blown big-budget theatrical release. Instead, they churned out a Modesty Blaise prequel to keep their hands on the property.

According to the industry press, Quentin Tarantino originally wanted to direct the Modesty Blaise feature. However, considering how long he takes between movies, I wouldn’t expect this to arise anytime soon. He seems perfectly content with putting his name on this film as “Quentin Tarantino Presents.”

“My Name Is Modesty” tells the backstory of Modesty (Alexandra Staden) before she became a secret agent. It’s told in flashbacks from her job in a Moroccan casino, where she is being held hostage by terrorists. Modesty, whom everyone looks up to at work, challenges the head terrorist (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to a game of roulette in order to free the other hostages in the casino. During the game, she tells of her childhood, where she lived as a refugee first in the Balkans and later throughout Europe.

The film does drag a bit, evidenced by the fact that I never realized that it had a relatively short running time of 78 minutes. It wasn’t unbearable, but it’s a good thing it wasn’t any longer.

Considering the constraints of the film, which was shot in only 18 days and under a very tight budget, “My Name Is Modesty” is actually pretty impressive. However, without this backstory, it’s only a so-so story. I understand that the writers were trying to piece together Modesty Blaise’s early life, but too often the movie becomes about justifying this character that not everyone is going to know.

Think of in terms of the television show “Smallville” does for Superman. In “Smallville,” they tell the ongoing stories and use Clark Kent’s early life as a backdrop. However, “My Name Is Modesty” is about nothing but the backdrop. The hostage situation she finds herself in isn’t all that unique or impressive in itself. It seemed too much of an excuse to talk about her childhood, which really isn’t what the hard core story of the film is about.

The disk comes loaded with a nice assortment of special features. However, for someone whose never read any Modesty Blaise source material, I felt left in the dust. Almost every in-depth feature has the subjects gush so much about the heroine, without really giving a history of her. I understand that she’s like the female James Bond, and while she’s a cult figure, she’s not as widely known as Mr. Bond.

There are two commentary tracks, which is always nice. The first comes from the writers, Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler. They give some interesting background of the development of the project and actually perform a much better commentary than director Scott Spiegel and producer Ted Nicolaou.

Not to underplay their Tarantino card, Miramax included “A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino & Scott Spiegel” on the disk. This lengthy interview gives the two filmmakers a chance to kibitz about their love for Modesty Blaise and their passion for her story. However, the interview is pretty drawn out and not very visually stimulating. Ten minutes into it, I found myself fixating on Tarantino’s forehead and wondering how it got so huge.

Another conversation put on the disk is with Modesty Blaise creator Peter O’Donnell. However, this is an old interview from what looks like a VHS camera. The picture and sound quality are awful for this interview, and considering that O’Donnell was pretty old, it really is only worth struggling to see and hear if you’re a die-hard fan.

There’s a making-of featurette, which isn’t that great. It’s got an interesting editorial style, however, it spends to much time just showing the workings of a set instead of cutting back and forth between interviews to give an all-encompassing look of the film.

There’s a retrospective of Modesty Blaise artwork and comic recaps on the DVD, which gives the uninitiated a hint of her adventures. And ultimately, this works against the DVD because I would much rather have seen these stories brought to life than the one they chose to give us.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1) - Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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