“Monkey Man” Movie Review – Spotlight Report

monkey man review

Dev Patel‘s Monkey Man is a supercharged, political, quasi-spiritual beat-em-up set in a fictional Indian city.

Kid (Dev Patel) is a rural villager working in the big city as a monkey-masked fighter in an underground fight club hosted by Tiger (Sharlto Copley). He finagles his way into a job at a brothel nightclub that serves the corrupt rich of the city and uses it to launch his revenge against the police chief (Sikandar Kher) who killed his mother. When his plan fails, he’s taken in by a temple occupied by hijra led by Alpha (Vipin Sharma) and he expands his plan to take down the theocratic leader of the country, Baba Shakti (Makarand Deshpande).

Monkey Man is paced furiously, with some frankly bewildering camerawork by Sharone Mei. A large portion of the film is shot in shaky close-up, often shifting to point-of-view shots. This certainly lends everything a frenetic air, but also makes it hard at times to discern exactly what you’re seeing and is likely to nauseate some viewers. This is a shame since the film is remarkably colourful and loaded with visual detail. The fights are also weighty and well choreographed, and you’ll feel every blow.

Running through Monkey Man are references to the tale of the Indian monkey god Hanuman, who uses his magical powers, his strength and his cunning to challenge demonic forces. You don’t have to be familiar with any of the Ramayana to follow the story, as Kid has flashbacks to his mother that provide context for the story’s symbolism. It really couldn’t be simpler or more accessible. You also don’t need to know what’s going on in India right now to follow the film’s politics or what Dev Patel thinks of the current government.

Monkey Man has its flaws, but it’s certainly an interesting, novel film. The story is your basic action revenge thriller that owes no small debt to the John Wick series, but its style and setting are wholly new to the genre. There are some pretty funny nods to the endearing corniness of Indian cinema that you might laugh either with or at, but the violence is creative, brutal and raw. Sensitive viewers should likely stay away, but the adventurous will find much to enjoy even as they pick it apart.

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