Friday, April 26, 2024

Monkey Man (2024)

Upon paying a quick visit to IMDB to check up on a cast member I made the discovery that within the action genre there is sub category going by the name of "one man army" to which Monkey Man belongs as deservedly as say, the John Wick saga.

This unashamedly full-on action flick, written, directed, produced and starring Dev Patel, has the striking distinction that it is embedded in a stylised mythological blend of its own confection and yet very obviously desirous of being about something in the real world beyond the private quest for redress of its protagonist and his murky Mumbai-esque milieu.


It's this latter ambition that has probably led to its release at a time when Modi and the religious right are seeking renewal in the world's largest democratic election and will almost certainly see it denied either a cinematic release or even a streaming deal in India.

That said Patel and his collaborators on the screenplay are very much looking in from the outside, from Indonesia in fact, where the movie was shot. And he consciously and showily borrows from both the Thai and Indonesian action traditions, with deliberate echoes from the likes of Ong-Bak and The Raid.

The kitchen fight was one of several elements which also reminded me of Jet Li in Kiss of the Dragon. We also get brawls in a brothel, a bathroom and a lift, which tick all the boxes and yet always feel on the edge of something startling.

We are very fond of Dev. He was an inspired casting choice for Sir Gawain in 2021's The Green Knight. This directorial debut probably indicates how he would most like to build on that role at this stage in his career, a creative calling card of sorts, into which he has poured many of his influences and ideas, plus his training in Taekwondo. And we're glad that the cinematic world has now received it, as the pandemic and injuries during shooting had portended a fatal stall.

Unlike others who in recent history have been given the opportunity — by either an indulgent studio or streaming giant — to realise a pet project with no holds barred (Duncan Jones...), any excess here has been contained and the misfires kept to a minimum.


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