An anonymous young man unleashes a campaign of vengeance against the corrupt leaders who murdered his mother and continue to systemically victimize the poor and powerless.

Chuck says:

Cut from the same cloth as the “John Wick” movies, Dev Patel’s “Monkey Man” is an impressive action debut for the actor, who steps behind the camera to deliver a ferocious film that, if it has a fault, goes a bit too far in the mayhem it contains. Whereas the Keanu Reeves’ features are slickly executed and exist in a world that gleams and shimmers, the environment here is of the streets, dirty, and gritty, one that reflects the hero’s messy motives and feral approach to violence.  Narratively, the movie fails to coalesce in bringing together genre tropes, Hindu mythology, and Indian politics, but that’s not for lack of trying.

While a child, Bobby (Patel) would hear stories of the monkey god Hanuman from his mother, mesmerized by the tale of the mythical commander whose powers of strength were robbed from him by other deities. Through tenacity and sheer will, he rescues his wife from a demon, a quality Bobby emulates when he wears a monkey mask while waging battle nightly at fight club in Yatana. And while he is usually the loser in these contests, our hero has something up his sleeve, these defeats all a part of a plan is to get closer to Rana Singh (Sikander Kher), the corrupt police chief responsible for his mother’s death.

On his long journey towards revenge, he encounters and employs many others in his quest. His sidekick Alphonso (Pitobash) proves useful on many occasions, as does Sita (Sobhita Dhulipala), an escort he’s drawn to. Alpha (Vipin Sharma), the leader of a tribe of third-gender people also comes to his aid, offering training and a stark reminder of his purpose.

The fight sequences, of which there are many, are ferocious, kinetic affairs in which Patel employs a handheld camera, utilizes frequent whip pans and an aggressive editing style to replicate the confusion and energy generated within these contests. The choreography is well-thought out and inventive, but there’s a purposeful sloppiness to it all. At times, the camera moves are too frequent and the cutting too quick, a muddle of motion the result.

On the surface, Patel would seem an unlikely action hero. Yet, that’s part of the appeal. To be sure, he doesn’t have the bulk of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the cool presence of Reeves or the quip-ready-wit of Bruce Willis. He lets us know he’s turned himself into a lean, mean fighting machine and the tenacity and drive he displays in portraying the Kid is what makes the character relatable and appealing. There may be bigger, stronger, and quicker opponents he must contend with but there’s no doubt that no matter what obstacles come his way, he won’t quit until he enacts his revenge. This everyman appeal, as well as its undeniable energy, make “Monkey Man” an impressive addition to the already crowded action genre.

3 Stars

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