Monkey Man (2024) | Review

Monkey Man is a suitably exciting and violent vigilante film with a more filling and political message behind it than first seems.

Monkey Man (2024) | Review
Source: The Movie Database

Synopsis: An unnamed man who is part of an underground fight club seeks retribution against the people who attacked his village and killed his mother.

Director: Dev Patel
Cast: Dev Patel, Sikandar Kher, Pitobash, Sobhita Dhulipala, Sharlto Copley

Dev Patel's many-hatted vehicle (writer, director, producer, and star) Monkey Man has been through the wringer to be released but found a champion in Jordan Peele. And it's a good thing, too. Monkey Man is a suitably exciting and violent vigilante film with a more filling and political message behind it than first seems.

Thrusting himself into the 'one man army' action role is a bold move from Patel because he isn't falling back on a career profile as Eastwood did for High Plains Drifter or when Stallone grabbed the reigns of Rocky Balboa. But it works. Patel's unnamed protagonist (given multiple vague labels like 'Kid' in true Eastwoodian hero fashion) is shown to be smart and volatile in equal measure. He's a man with a plan:

  1. worm his way behind the scenes of a high-profile club
  2. get close to and kill the corrupt men who savagely wiped out his village

But the closer he gets to his goal, the greater his rage builds, putting him in danger of blowing his rouse altogether.

Along the way, there's a solid mix of shady characters for Kid to meet. Ashwini Kalsekar is entertaining as 'boss bitch' Queenie Kapoor who runs the club he works at, Pitobash as lovable gangster Alphonso, and Sharlto Copley gives it absolute socks as underground fight club manager Tiger. Their collective dialogue leans a little too hard on obscenities – in one chase scene Alphonso is so rattled by police cars chasing his tuk-tuk that the word 'FUCK' risks burning itself onto the screen's subtitle area – but each is a welcome sight when they return to the action. Above them all is Makarand Deshpande as spiritual leader Baba Shakti, who plays everything with the slimy self-confidence of a man who truly lives his gimmick.

The political backbone of Monkey Man is the USP of this Taken-Wick-Equalizer cousin. Wanting to avenge the murder of his mother would be enough for Kid to wage a vendetta, but there's something of a wider cultural revolt behind his violence. The middle of the film is given to a temple's hijra community that are the new target of Babe Shakti's political advances. It puts serious meat of transgender and intersex discrimination on the film's bones, although this is also when it is at its Rockyest and entered into full montage mode.

Things are a little technically rough around the edges, which holds this back from being a completely stellar debut. Several lines are either softly spoken or poorly mixed in post-production which means subtitles are close to a necessity. Many action scenes are frantic and full of energy, but quick cuts and rapid focus issues (whether due to someone taking drugs or feeling the effects of a blow to the head) are more irritating than atmospheric. Still, this is a great first outing from Patel and shows he's able to infuse political commentary into solid genre entertainment.

And finally: it's violent. Incredibly violent. So if you've gone cold turkey over the awards season and time Dune Part Two has dominated cinemas, check this one out to inject some sharp and bloody combat into your day.

Source: YouTube