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‘Monkey Man’ - a sleek tale of revenge


A man's face fading into the face of a monkey.
Ben Hurney / THE GATEPOST

By Jack McLaughlin

Arts & Features Editor


Highly acclaimed actor Dev Patel can now comfortably claim the title of a successful director after his debut feature “Monkey Man” released last week. 


The film was originally doomed to be exclusively released on Netflix, but was saved after being acquired by Jordan Peele’s production company Monkeypaw and was given the theatrical release this spectacle truly deserves. 


Patel stars as Kid, a young man who barely makes ends meet competing in an underground fighting ring, where he fights opponents while wearing a monkey mask. 


An opportunity arises for him to act out his long-plotted revenge against the rich elite who terrorized his village and killed his mother during his childhood.


And Kid does so, in the most gruesome way possible. 


It felt like “Monkey Man” was going to be compared to the “John Wick” films before it came out, which is fair given the basic premise of revenge with flashy action. 


Where these two films differ, however, is that “Monkey Man” has a much more compelling lead with a more interesting character arc. 


Unlike the perfectly threatening John Wick, Kid starts off completely out of his element. He’s terrible at fighting and repeatedly loses, but it makes the story feel more impactful - he isn’t a remarkable fighter right away.  


A decent portion of this is spent on watching Kid grow as a fighter. The scenes of him stumbling around these crazy moments of action is incredibly entertaining, and it makes his eventual training and growth that much more impactful.


The action feels rewarding because of this. There isn’t a lot in the beginning and middle, and the absolutely insane finale is the ultimate payoff. 


Where this film also differs from most action flicks is its injection of political themes that drive the plot forward. Its inclusion here is done excellently, and while Kid is mercilessly killing his opponents, it comes from his traumatic experiences with those more powerful above him. 


The visual flair of this film also lets it stand apart from the other entries in this popular genre. Shots that would have no thought in most films - like a main character ominously standing in an elevator as its doors open - stick out because of the fantastic cinematography and use of color. 


The story’s inspiration stemmed from Hindu deity Hanuman, who represents strength and courage. This is an important theme that is constantly reinforced throughout.


Kid progressively embodies these traits until he is strong and courageous enough to go up against the oppressors of his village from all those years ago. 


For an action film, all of the acting is only decent - with the exception of Patel. He plays this role with such a strong on-screen presence, and his minimal dialogue completely sells that. 


The main antagonists are incredibly flat by comparison. They lack any depth or subtleties - they are written to be disliked with little to zero redeemable qualities.


And for a film like this, that’s completely acceptable. Not every movie needs a villain who is written in a way that the audience can understand their point of view. The antagonists here are portrayed as ruthless and evil, and it makes every fight against them feel that much better when Kid comes out on top. 


Patel, and by extension the crew behind “Monkey Man,” underwent a lengthy and grueling production to get everything right. 


Between filming during intense COVID-19 restrictions in India, and injuries happening on-set - such as Patel breaking his hand in the first action scene filmed - it is a miracle that this film got finished and is now available to a mass audience. 


Exceptional films in the action genre don’t come often. There is usually a difficult balance that needs to be made between an interesting story and exciting action scenes. 


“Monkey Man” manages to strike the balance flawlessly. 


Rating: A

Utterly bananas 

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