Bob Hoskins received his only Oscar nomination at the moment for portraying George in Mona Lisa.
Bob Hoskins portrays the criminal, and he is possibly even more than small time. He frankly seems to be barely be a criminal. The film really does not tell what George was exactly before he got of prison other than he went to prison for a crime, and apparently it was covering in some way for his crime boss Mortwell (Michael Caine). Hoskins is terrific in the setup which really is not explained by the film, because just from his performance I felt that George was never entirely cut out to be a criminal really lacking the hard edge, which is an important note for the rest of his performance.
Hoskins suggests as George that he has more of an interest in crime, than he really is a true criminal. I think this is shown well by his attempt to get back in the business of crime, which Hoskins plays in a rather rushed manner, showing quite well that George really does not put all that much thought into his entire idea of being criminal, and he suggests perfectly that George is more of a criminal because of circumstance, than at heart being a man who wishes to do bad.
George gets back into the criminal job with a small job he barely understands, which is being a drive for a prostitute Simone (Cathy Tyson). Their relationship makes up much of his performance. Hoskins rightfully portrays George as rather naive about the whole process of being a driver, acting completely unaware of what to do, as well as asking far to many questions to Simone, that clearly seem to be not the way a driver really should act.
There relationship though although continually strained because well she's a prostitute actually does grow, becuase George shows himself to be a descent man actually. I find their relationship has a rather natural progression actually which is important, because in the hands of the wrong actor it could have seemed quite contrived, but Hoskins always alludes well that George genuinely at heart just wants to do the right thing, despite his attempts at a more rough outward exterior, Hoskins always subtly suggests that George really is a bit of a softie after all.
George though becomes even deeper into the relationship when she asks him to attempt to find an old prostitute friend of hers in the lowest of places. Hoskins is interesting here, as this goes against George's job, and his life up until now to really break the whole criminal underground to find her. Hoskins though manages to do it because honestly shows that George does slowly fall in love in Simone, certainly misguided, and Hoskins never overtly says it, but it clearly develops in just the right fashion.
Hoskins gives realistic depiction of George's attempts to find the prostitute, because he always conveys the genuine disbelief, and disgust as he sees the treatment of the women, and girls, and Hoskins shows quite well that George really hates this reality, which basically does add to his drive to do what is descent. Hoskins frankly could made these scenes are bore, if he just went through them, but instead Hoskins always adds to them honest human reaction to the horrible sights he sees.
Well all hell basically breaks loose for George, and Hoskins is downright brilliant in the entire climax of the film. George is finally pressed to deal with it all, both face his not too happy boss, as well as finally face about his relationship with Simone. Hoskins is incredibly powerful every moment as George goes through an abundance of emotions, from hatred to heartbreak Hoskins spot on. Hoskins is particular is amazing in his small heartbreaking reaction to finally seeing the full extent of Simone's relationship with the other prostitute, as well as his devastating walk down the beach.
Hoskins' performance certainly peaks at the end of the film, but Hoskins is great throughout leading to this end wonderfully well. Hoskins makes what could have been a very standard performance in what sort of is a standard thriller, a strong effective performance, with scenes of true power. He manages to make George a likable, as well as memorable character.