‘Monkey Man’ Review: Dev Patel Is Kid, a Human Punching Bag


The thriller “Monkey Man”, which opens with a tender scene, is a nod towards the power of storytelling. It then quickly moves into action-movie territory, with a flurry hard blows and fast edits. For the next two frenetic hours, it repeatedly cuts back to the past — where a mother and child happily lived once upon a bucolic time — before returning to the grubby, raw-knuckle present. The hits keep coming, and the hero is always taking them in a film that tries to entertain you, but ends up exhausting you.

Dev Patel stars as Kid, a character who is avenging a past wrong in the classic adventure film style. Kid, who is a human punching-bag in shadowy ringfights (Sharlto copley plays the M.C.) must do this by working as a punching bag for these fights.Kid, who works as a human punching bag in shadowy ring fights (Sharlto Copley plays the M.C. ), must repeatedly take beatings to triumphantly rise, like all heroes. Before he can do that, he must execute a complex plan that pits against power brokers on both sides of law. You can predict the outcome of this movie, as you would with most genre films.

Kid’s half-baked scheme involves an underworld operation that has national political goals. It takes him to a den of inequity, the kind of place that movies love. There are slinky, beautiful women, thuggish, violent men, and white powder lines that lead into corridors where power is held. Patel’s blurry story hints at the real world, and even incorporates mythology. But these elements only create expectations of a complex story that never materializes. What comes across is a sense of desperation and exploitation: Everyone is always hustling another person. This gives the film a provocative sense of pessimism. Patel counters this with flashbacks to Kid’s mother, Neela, (Adithi kalkunte), who is portrayed as a saintly woman in chokingly close-up.

Patel, who directed the movie from a script written by him, Paul Angunawela and John Collee, is an appealing screen presence and you’re rooting for him — both as a character and as a filmmaker — right from the start. As an actor, Patel was built for empathy. He has a slender body and melting eyes that can be lit up or dimmed to create a feeling of vulnerability. His performance in “Monkey Man” requires a lot from him below the neck — he has sculpted his body into stunt-ready shape, as a bit of striptease shows — but it’s his beseeching eyes that draw you to him. That’s especially crucial because while the messy story crams in a great deal — sad ladies, musclemen, brutal cops, exploited villagers, a false prophet and the Hindu god Hanuman, who appears as half-human, half-monkey — it never coheres.

Patel’s work in “Monkey Man”, even if the fight sequences are energetic but uninspired, is excellent. A long sequence in the beginning of the story begins with a thief robbing a female at an outdoor café on a motorbike. The bandit zooms off only to soon hand the pilfered item off to someone else who — as the camera hurries alongside each courier — rapidly snakes through the streets before passing the stolen object to another person (and so on) until the package finally lands in Kid’s hands. It’s an witty, flashy clip that announces Patel’s ambitions in filmmaking and visually expresses just how the story itself zigzags and zags while it hurtles forward.

That sequence — with its rush of bodies and scenery — also encapsulates one of the movie’s more frustrating flaws: its unrelenting, near-unmodulated narrative pace. It’s just “Monkey Man” for much of the movie. Go, go. Even John Wick will take a breather from time to time. The “Wick” series is a clear influence on “Monkey Man,” to the point that there’s an adorable dog. Kid slows down in the middle of the movie to heal and reset his mind. He also prepares himself for the finale, which takes place at a temple guarded by a giant statue and a group called hijras. India’s third gender.

It’s too much of a shame Kid doesn’t spend more time at the temple. The company there is charming and includes Alpha (Vipin Singh, a clever scene-stealer), one of those wise elders that guide heroes to the right path. Kid is seen training with a drummer at the temple in a beautifully syncopated interlude. It makes you wish that the musician played throughout the film to help the pacing.

Patel’s vague gestures and flashbacks are a blur, but Kid is able to resume his quest and flex his muscles again. By this point, it’s obvious that Patel is trying to convey something about the world, but his character would rather be delivering brutal beatdowns in that magical and mystical land, where John Wick, and other violent screen fantasies, live, fight, and die in blissful non-reality.

Monkey Man
You know, there is violence. Running time: 2 hours and 1 minute. In theaters.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *