Review: You’ll Go Ape for ‘Monkey Man’

‘Monkey Man’ is one of the best action movies out there
Monkey Man was released theatrically in early April. It quickly became a box office hit, grossing $34 million worldwide with just a $10 million budget.
“Monkey Man” was released theatrically in early April. It quickly became a box office hit, grossing $34 million worldwide with just a $10 million budget.
First Poster for Dev Patels MONKEY MAN sold by Amharic Tonga/

This might be unpopular, but most action movies this author has seen as of late have fallen very short. In this author’s experience, an action movie has one of two downfalls: it either has pretty unoriginal action sequences but some substance and a decent storyline, or it has fantastic and unique action scenes but a trash storyline. I would usually prefer the second downfall over the first, and that’s exactly what was expected when this author went to watch “Monkey Man.” 

However, when this author left the theater after the first showing she saw, and after the second time when she forced her parents to come with her, she was more than pleasantly surprised. She was invigorated, impressed and itching to watch it a third time after just leaving. “Monkey Man” was one of, if not the best action movie this author has ever seen, so here’s the context behind this glowing review.

The premise of the movie is that Kid (Dev Patel) seeks a job at an establishment after he tracks down the military general Rana (Sikander Kher) and his leader Baba Shakti (Makarand Deshpande). They are the people responsible for brutally killing his mother and destroying the village in the forest he used to thrive in. He seeks to avenge his mother’s death through his as an employee at the restaurant and trains in street fighting in a monkey mask, giving him the nickname “Monkey Man,” to finally take down his enemies.

It should also be noted that Patel directed produced and starred in “Monkey Man,” and the film was his directorial debut. This movie gets extra credit for that just because this author believes that Patel must be extremely talented for his first movie to be as well done as it was for all of the reasons this author will get into now.

To start off, this movie is not all action and has a solid storyline. Kid’s mother is not just some empty character the audience knows nothing about and therefore feels no empathy for just to give the main character a motive for his violence. Instead, core memories of Kid’s mother are sprinkled throughout the movie, sometimes when the audience least expects it. It’s through these clips of Kid’s relationship with his mother that we gain a connection with her and are given context about present-day Kid.

It’s because of a folk tale about a monkey that Kid’s mother emphasized when he was a child that he even has this persona. This element of the movie really makes Kid’s mother a human to the audience and Kid himself, giving the film more depth and allowing Patel to flex his acting chops as almost everything reminds him of her, leading to many PTSD episodes.

This connection of course leads the audience to hate the enemies that much more, making the potential revenge that much sweeter to watch. This author won’t spoil the ending, but she was very pleased, while also understanding why others might not like it.

The core and greatness of this movie though lies in the action. There are two major action sequences in the whole movie from what this author can remember, and the movie’s duration is around two hours long. That alone should indicate that these two action scenes are not just scenes, but very prolonged sequences, which if not done well, drag on and become quite boring. Luckily, this author can say quite the opposite about these sequences.

There was not a moment in what seemed like 45 minutes of straight action for each sequence that this author lost interest or looked away or was not on the edge of her seat. The fantastic soundtrack only added to the tension and enhanced every part of the movie, but it wasn’t just that. The sequences involved quick camera work, switching of perspectives from Kid’s eyes to outside buildings to watching the fight straight on, and violence that left this author cringing and scared to keep watching. 

These sequences were just chaotic enough for the audience to keep their eyes glued to the screen without there being too much going on that those watching would lose track of what was happening. They were fresh. They were unique. They were absolutely captivating, and after each one was over, this author felt the urge to jump up and applaud. 

The gore mentioned earlier that made this author cringe also absolutely did not disappoint. There were specifically three moments in the movie that lingered in this author’s mind long after watching the movie, and this author has seen a lot of disturbing things in other films. “Monkey Man” does however rank pretty high in this category in terms of shock factor for that reason.

There were only two real downfalls of this movie: the accents of every character in this movie were very strong and many words and context were not understood until the second watch for this author, so it’s highly recommended that one should watch this movie with closed captions. There also were of course some characters and scenes that this author would deem unnecessary, but this doesn’t mean they were boring or deplorable, just questionable in terms of relevancy.

Overall, this movie is by far one of the best action movies this author has seen both recently and ever. From the soundtrack to the action sequences, to the admirable character development and this being a highly impressive directorial debut, “Monkey Man” is no doubt deserving of not just accolades, but pure adoration.

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