‘Monkey Man’ is a layered and exciting addition to the action genre oeuvre

Dev Patel in character on ‘Monkey Man’. Picture: Universal Pictures

Dev Patel in character on ‘Monkey Man’. Picture: Universal Pictures

Published Apr 5, 2024


Director Dev Patel isn’t monkeying around when it comes to his directorial debut “Monkey Man”.

The film delivers something audiences will be familiar – revenge – but what Patel brings to it is layered and exciting.

His love for the action genre and film-making, in general, is on full display, which makes the movie from producer Jordan Peele, pivot its release from Netflix to the cinema, all the more admirable.

Any viewer of “Monkey Man” will understand the dedication and love that has been poured into this film, because despite the inclination to dismiss it as another action thriller film, there is so much spirit poured into the movie, and into making something filled with nuance and substance.

“Monkey Man” is an action thriller about one man’s quest for vengeance against the corrupt leaders who murdered his mother and continue to systemically victimise the poor and powerless … As his childhood trauma boils over, his mysteriously scarred hands unleash an explosive campaign of retribution to settle the score with the men who took everything from him.
Dev Patel in character on ‘Monkey Man’. Picture: Universal Pictures

There are many elements of the movie that tie into the action genre oeuvre but the greatest strength of the film is how Patel crafted a story deeply ingrained into his culture and parts of his identity.

He does this to such a skilled degree that to divorce those aspects of the film would mean to cut out its heart.

Credit has to be given to his fellow screenwriters, Paul Angunawela and John Collee, for their contributions, as it is clear that while Patel is the man who deserves the recognition, many others contributed to this film’s success.

Director Dev Patel on the set of his film, ‘Monkey Man’. Picture: Universal Pictures

Others deserving of that recognition is the director of photography, Sharone Meir, and the film’s editing team.

The fight scenes are enjoyable because of the visual aesthetic and shift in colours and tones which marry the protagonist’s emotions with skilful intent.

This is all elevated by the the film’s editing, which shifts styles throughout various story beats. The pacing of that adds to the film, making the fight and chase scenes more thrilling, and gives weight to the psychological and emotional development of Patel’s character.

The film’s cast also include SA-born actor Sharlto Copeley who has gone onto make a nice lane for himself in Hollywood. He has a campy but memorable role in the film.

The film’s cast also include SA-born actor Sharlto Copeley who has gone onto make a nice lane for himself in Hollywood. Picture: Universal Pictures

The film certainly isn’t perfect. Some moments come off as shlocky and there are times when the comedic pieces don’t land.

There are also some awkward camera set-ups but those are mostly few and far between, and predominantly feel like directing growing pains.

Additionally, the film could also have benefited from some more time being shaved off the story.

That being said, Patel chose the right genre to make his debut as he clearly has a prosperous future awaiting him. He will probably continue to grow and improve as a director.

There are interesting story moments that sometimes feel like they have been ripped from the headlines, for example the violence and harassment various groups and cultures face in India, and the way that is intentionally weaved in but never in a way that feels disingenuous. This makes it a must-see.

Ultimately, the film is a wonderful addition to the action movie canon, and if you’re looking for a thrilling and engaging time, then “Monkey Man” is worth checking out.

* “Monkey Man” has a 16 DLNSV rating and opens on April 5.

Cape Argus

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