Monkey Man Review – IGN

Monkey Man Film Review

Monkey Man opens in theaters April 5. This review is based on a screening at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival.

Dev Patel brings a mix of heart and influences to Monkey Man. In this film where he wears multiple hats as writer, director, and star, the Oscar nominee’s genuine intentions clash with murky politics and lackluster execution. Drawing inspiration from films like John Wick, Patel’s crime saga set in India strives for a cinematic amalgamation but ends up feeling more like an imitation, both culturally and aesthetically. While there are visually stunning shots that fall short of coalescing, the bone-crunching combat scenes lack impact due to their disjointed presentation.

The Story of Monkey Man

The central character in Monkey Man adopts the persona of the “monkey man” – a bare-knuckle brawling figure in an ape mask residing in the slums. Flashbacks to his childhood reveal a connection to the apelike demigod Hanuman from Hindu mythology, influencing his actions and motivations throughout the film. Drawing from religious tales and childhood memories, the character embarks on a journey of both compassion and vigilante justice.

Exploring Class Inequality

Through a series of events involving a stolen wallet from a high-end brothel, Monkey Man delves into themes of class disparity within a city akin to Mumbai. As the protagonist climbs the ranks of the establishment, a tale of vengeance against corrupt figures in power begins to take shape, gradually unfolding over the course of the film.

Political Commentary in Monkey Man

While attempting to weave a political narrative, Monkey Man faces challenges in addressing issues of authoritarianism and religious extremism. The character of Baba Shakti mirrors elements of India’s right-wing government, but the film’s portrayal falls short of capturing the complexities of such ideologies. The use of religious symbolism and chants further complicates the film’s intended message, often leading to a jarring juxtaposition.

Action Sequences and Influences

The action sequences in Monkey Man draw inspiration from a variety of sources, such as Indonesian martial arts movies and Korean cinema. Patel’s depiction as an action star showcases fluidity and commitment, but the overall execution feels disjointed at times. While paying homage to films like John Wick, Monkey Man struggles to deliver impactful fight scenes consistently.