The Student Voice of St. George's School

The Creed

The Student Voice of St. George's School

The Creed

The Student Voice of St. George's School

The Creed

Monkey Man Review: Furious George

Dev Patel’s film, once speculated to be nothing more than a John Wick clone, finally debuts and leaves audiences in shock and awe.
Monkey Man’s poster

Rating: 4/5


When I think of urban action, I think of the top down, Hong Kong Massacre-esque sequence of John Wick plowing through enemy goons with a Dragon’s Breath shotgun as La Castle Vania drones in the background. With that being said, I wasn’t necessarily expecting anything new from Dev Patel’s Monkey Man, which was sometimes referred to as “The Indian John Wick”. I was expecting some over-the-top, fun Bollywood action without much attention to story— a flick just for kicks. 

It’s pretty clear where Dev Patel drew inspiration from Stahelski’s gritty action series: a jaded man donning a full-black formal fit, tearing through fodder as neon fluorescents buzz over spilt blood and cold steel. Although Monkey Man is a classic revenge arc in essence, it employs a disorientingly new style of ultra-violence, of which below flows a spiritual undercurrent rooted in Hindu folklore. From Helander’s Sisu to Naishuller’s Nobody, I am pleasantly surprised by how a filmmaker can adopt an already saturated framework and rejuvenate it. 

Monkey Man is not a strong film because it radically changes the concept of action films; rather, it’s because of its many small differences that set it apart from other classics. Some action sequences are paired with atmospheric, slow drones that feel ethereal, rather than the loud and outgoing dubstep swings that define the John Wick franchise; the geographical contrast between the pastoral grounds and dense Mumbai alleys allow the film’s color palettes to be diverse and consistently refreshed. 

Though Patel tackles the bulky— and often clumsy— ideas of violence, urbanism, and allegory, he never plays into one too much. The film’s protagonist, Kid, a victim to violent land claims in India, is parallelled to the Hanuman, a deity who faced divine punishment for mistaking the sun for a ripe fruit. Of course, it’s not like we haven’t seen allegories in film. Some may compare Patel’s Hanuman to Safdies’ Icarus, yet there are many distinctions between the two deities that allows for Patel’s narrative to remain interesting. Unlike Icarus, Hanuman was punished for his innocent curiosity, and in some retellings was reciprocated by the Gods for his misfortunes— it’s a similar, but subtly different narrative. 

Kid, donning his Monkey mask, right before an underground boxing match

Monkey Man outshines other action films in the spirit, ferocity, and authenticity of Patel’s directorial input. It’s interesting to see the spotlight on secular communities such as the Hijra and their belief in the two-spirited human soul. Filming their worship Ardhanarishvara is not only an interesting exposition on the origins of transexual culture, similar to how Livingston’s Paris is Burning focuses on “voguing” in New York, but also an integral cog in the film’s many thematic dichotomies: secularism vs. traditionalism, violence vs. peace, pastoralism vs. urbanism, etc. There’s a lot of cultural nuance when it comes to this film, as Patel continues to form connections tied into his own lived experiences and spheres of influence. Monkey Man thrives because its world and atmosphere are  directly woven into the narrative— rather than an afterthought— allowing it to be a lot more than your typical action flick that lacks substance.

Kid, during the final sequence in which he kills Baba Shakti

But what about the actual action?

John Wick has his pencil. Sisu has his pickaxe. What does Kid have? Holstered fireworks, a high heel, and a dollar store ape mask. Yeah, the action is fun as hell. It’s vibrant, unpredictable, aesthetically epic, and over-the-top. Each sequence has got just enough grit in which fight scenes border on cool, rather than silly; I mean, no other director can make a scene of a man wearing a monkey mask in a boxing match feel genuinely serious and grounded. The choreography, especially during the kitchen brawls, was sharp, weighted, and matched the film’s leitmotif perfectly. The only missed opportunity was not getting Kid to smother Rana in Bobby’s bleach (even if bleach isn’t flammable) — among a few other misses. 

Kid pointing a revolver at an executive of Rana’s club

Like The Beekeeper, a 2024 feature film which spotlights another zoomorphic, vengeance-driven vigilante, Monkey Man too possesses that note of “dumb fun”, which may come off as cheesy at times. I understand the thematic relevance of the Hijra peoples taking up arms against Baba’s empire, but the end result was a clumsy, fight sequence which subtracted from the pre-established tones of severity. I liked Alfonso and his supercharged tuk-tuk, don’t get me wrong, but there’s only so much comedy a severe movie can afford before it feels out of place. I’ll admit, I did hear a few chuckles in the theater when a group of fully armored Hijra warriors started throwing hands with a gang of poorly equipped suits (why’d they choose fists over guns for a knife fight?) Patel’s camerawork, which tends to get disorienting, also renders certain action sequences hard to digest. 

Though Monkey Man’s strongest point lies in its cultural richness, I felt some of the narrative was underutilized. Despite Patel’s focus on the sociopolitical conflicts in modern day India, Baba Shakti felt like an unmotivated antagonist for an otherwise interesting critique. I would’ve preferred further exploration into the religious conflicts in Mumbai, and some further exposition into the relationship between Shakti and his role in the secessions. Rana Singh, on the other hand, was just a sociopathic brute who could throw hands with nothing else under the surface. Good villains are either memorable because of their screen presence or motivation, which is something that I found a bit lacking in both of Patel’s antagonists. 

The simple truth is that Monkey Man is ultimately an action film and it accomplishes a lot more than it’s expected to. For Patel to prove that a modern action film can still be culturally rich, potent, and original is an impressive feat by itself, and this isn’t even mentioning the torturous days of production hell during COVID. Patel tries to do so much at once, so it’s inevitable that some aspects of his movie are bound to fall short, but his ambition is one of a kind. Monkey Man holds its own, bringing a thoughtful narrative, a new style of ultra violence, and new cultural aesthetic to a genre that seems to always be on a slippery slope. To paraphrase a one-liner I stole online: this stuff is bananas (sorry).

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About the Contributor
Richard Wang
Richard Wang, Staff Writer
Richard is a Grade 12 Student at St George’s School and an active member of the Saint’s Players theatre program. Although Richard started doing acting in Grade 8, he found more of a calling in the technical side of performance, taking a backstage seat behind the scenes for school productions. Richard is also an active short story writer and poet. Recently, he has been experimenting with other mediums like screenwriting and playwriting. Outside of the classroom, Richard likes crime films like The Godfather, King of New York, or Heat, but really, he’s also a big sucker for cartoons. This year Richard is both excited and tentative about delving into the unfamiliar world of journalism.

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