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Friday, May 24, 2024

Monkey Man (MA15+) film review

In a forest village in India, a mother tells her young son about Hanuman, a Monkey god. Inter-spliced with memories of violence brought about by a corrupt police chief Rana Singh (Sikander Kher), we flash forward to an underground fighting club where the grown boy (Dev Patel) wears a monkey mask and gets paid to throw fights. Soon the Monkey Man plots a scheme to get inside a luxury hotel to get closer to Singh to exact his revenge.

Starting off with Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Dev Patel has crafted a very sturdy career as an actor so far. In his feature-length directorial debut, Patel has created an action movie endued with Indian culture, sociopolitical commentary and emotional depth, riffing on everything he has learned to date and including some regular faces in front of, and behind, the camera.

Revenge movies are usually quite straight forward and overdone, having exploded onto the screen in the 1970s with Dirty Harry (1971), Death Wish (1974) and Taxi Driver (1976). The genre went on to inspire Batman Begins (2005) and The Batman (2023) which dealt with the inherent selfishness, immaturity and futility of vigilantism as opposed to becoming an inspirational heroic symbol. While Monkey Man has a personal revenge tale set against social upheaval due to a nefarious political system, these two elements do not come together.

Verdict: While a fantastic production, a better-structured script would straighten out our hero’s journey and his questionable decision-making to strengthen audiences’ empathy to his plight. 3 stars.

Luke McWilliams, themovieclub.net. Viewed at Dendy cinemas.

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