Monkey Man Review - nerdthusiast


Monkey Man comes to us from lead star Dev Patel marking this his directorial debut. Here we follow an anonymous young man who’s only path is vengeance as he plunges his way through the slums of India against the corrupt leaders who stripped his life away. To sum up this film as a whole, there was action before Dev Patel and now there is action after Dev Patel. 

Was very interested in this once the reviews started coming in. Plus, Dev Patel has been a solid actor since his days in Skins, so I was curious to see whether he has the juice for being either an action actor or a director. It turned out he's got a penchant for both. Monkey Man doesn't break any new ground when it comes to One Man Army revenge films, but Patel manages to do it in brutal style thanks to some highly impressive set-pieces and a unique setting of political turmoil in India. I'm so very glad Jordan Peele did the smart thing and managed to get this saved from being utterly disposable Netflix Content that would have been buried almost instantly in the algorithm with next to no advertisement, instead allowing it to be shown in cinemas, where films actually make money and leave an impact. It's refreshing to see a well-made, original, R-rated action film with real vision behind it, as you can really see the blood, sweat and tears Patel put into this passion project from the get-go.

It's also just incredibly refreshing to see a mainstream wide-release action film rooted in Indian culture. There's lots of Bollywood action films released every year to acclaim, but they rarely show locally for me (I must get round to "RRR" and the upcoming "Kill", which had a trailer before this looks like a blast). It makes for some highly inventive and unique action with some high speed chases using tuk-tuks, mysticism rooted in Indian culture and the gorgeous, neon lit settings of the city of Yatana. There may be a bit of a lul in the second act when they do the whole "Hero on the verge of death explores his past and why he fights through mystic drugs", but it mostly feels refreshing with its structure and execution. This does wear its influences on its sleeve, and it's impossible not to compare it to "John Wick" at this point (They even directly mention it), but it does stand on its own with a more mystic and symbolism heavy vibe, that while not always subtle, does work. I went into these expecting Dev Patel's "The Kid" to be a highly trained killer, but he couldn't do anything less than that at the start. He starts off very brash and messy with a calculated plan that goes awry as he's way too underprepared. It was almost like in video-games when you get your ass handed to you by the final boss at the start of the game then have to train your way up for the final fight.

I didn't have any doubts on Dev Patel's ability as an actor, but he is still fantastic here, a quiet, extraordinarily angry man filled with rage and an easily understandable and simple backstory. It's a very driven role as he does a lot with very little words as he bares a very expressive face that works in favor of this unnamed character. Sikandar Kher makes for an effective villain, a real vile piece of filth you're happy to see annihilated. Sharlto Copley is great fun in his slimy minor role (Great to see this guy pop up in stuff again as Neil Blomkamp hasn't got a South Africa set sci-fi film in production it seems). Pitobash makes for a funny and likeable sidekick like character to "The Kid"and weirdly reminded me of Paulie from the Rocky series with his look and behavior . I do wish there had been a bit of a stronger main villain though, as while Makarand Deshpande does have presence of the overarching big bad, he feels very underdeveloped and outshined by his underdogs in Sikandar Kher and the delightfully cuntish Ashwini Kalsekar.

Dev Patel's direction smartly chooses to film the action more clearly and choreographed as his character increases his skill set. I was a bit worried early on as the opening fight in the ring is filled with Paul Greengrass style close-ups and shaky-cam that had me going "Oh, no '', but each succeeding action scene feels much more confident, clear and stylized. The final half hour in particular is filled with jaw-dropping and crowd-pleasing moments of brutality that are thoroughly entertained as Patel wipes out men with fireworks, noses are bitten off and people are stabbed in impressively grizzly ways with graphic detail on the wounds. The camerawork and editing is energetic and follows the action beautifully, allowing things to be in your face, but easy to follow as we revel in the carnage caused in these body-count heavy brawls. Being a passion project that had a rough production (Even resorting to filming some iffy shots on iPhones and GoPro’s that really stick out), I'm stunned this turned out the way it did, and as polished, confident and electric as it as a first film from Patel.

Monkey Man may have some luls in its second act and a couple of rough moments, but this is a thoroughly impressive and confident debut from Dev Patel that proves he has the juice for creating hard-biting, incredibly violent and spectacularly put together action with a unique angle. Politically-charged, gorgeously lit with its neon and mystical imagery and just a damn good time at the films. It doesn't rewrite the action book, but it's a refreshingly original film that only has me excited for whatever Patel does next, whether it's Monkey Man 2, an original action film or even a completely different genre, I'll be fully onboard.

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By Danny Manna @Cinemanna24