Should You Fear Monkey Man?

Should You Fear Monkey Man?

Photo by Universal Pictures – © Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Everyone loves Dev Patel. It’s been great to see him grow and tackle so many different roles since his break out performance in Slumdog Millionaire after jumping from TV to film. But, for as many sides he has shown of himself, it seems there’s one type of role that has still passed him by; action star. If you need to show yourself in a different light, you sometimes have to do it yourself. The initial reactions out of SXSW were overwhelmingly positive. Could Monkey Man be all it’s cracked up to be? Does being in control of your own destiny always lead to gold?

Spending his nights getting beaten to a pulp whilst wearing a monkey mask, the unnamed protagonist who later goes by the name, Bobby (Dev Patel) has one major goal in life; get revenge on those who destroyed his childhood village and killed his mother. Gaining intel, he gets a job in the club that houses his main target.

Completing his mission won’t be easy. He has the drive, but still lacks some skills. After a valiant but failed first attempt, he has to fight for his life in ways he never could have imagined. With the weight of a politically unrest country mirroring the issues of his own life, the Monkey Man is the only one who can bring down the corruption that plagues millions. 

Monkey 1

Photo by Universal Pictures – © Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

While there is a lot to like about Monkey Man, Patel’s directorial debut suffers from overstuffing. There are multiple different visual styles all thrown together with no cohesive nature. It makes sense to use steady, establishing shots for non-action oriented exposition. But one style gives way to another with no in camera transitions. The fighting (when it finally happens) also suffers from the same issue. Every style of action is strewn together with varying camera work.

A lot of very close-up action is filmed in the always nauseating shaky handy cam style, leaving the audience ogling indecipherable wavy lines. A frantic chase scene transitions for 10 seconds into a first person, Hardcore Henry style madness for no reason. It’s a trick used only once. Monkey Man feels like the greatest hits of all your favorite action films balled up into one film. Sounds great on the surface, but with no good through lines, it becomes jarring. 

The story suffers from many of the same issues. Not only does it take too long to get started, after things kick off- the brakes are hit way too many times. The personal story of Monkey Man’s past is strewn through-out the full runtime. Then 90 minutes into the movie, Patel decides to just show the full events. By that time, if you couldn’t have figured out what happened, you shouldn’t be watching movies. This is all followed by his final training which only pertains to his strength, yet he turns into a master fighter who can out Wick the best of them.

Every part of Monkey Man feels like it was thrown in because it sounded cool, but no one cared to make sure it fit into the whole story. When Monkey Man goes on a spree of biting people’s noses off, it’s interesting…but strange. Seeing a crazed Dev Patel use his teeth to drag a knife across a man’s throat is quite the visual. But he could have headbut that thing into the man’s throat for a more effective kill. Add the rolling cast of characters who either go unnamed or are left with no resolution. Now, the entire endeavor feels flaccid. 

Though this is a personal story for the protagonist, it is a large tale of injustice and corruption across India. While both can exist and compliment each other, this would have been a better film if it focused its story a little more and tightened up some reigns. And for all the smack I’ve been talking about Monkey Man, it still isn’t a bad film. It just needed someone to tighten some screws all around and take out what was unnecessary. 

Moneky Man2

Photo by Universal Pictures – © Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Final Grade: B-

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Here’s the trailer of the film.


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