Anger may not quiet the soul and an eye for an eye might eventually make the whole world blind, but corruption must be reckoned with in some fashion and Dev Patel makes it satisfying as hell in his directorial debut, Monkey Man. While the story of revenge is the most common kind of story, especially in the action/thriller genre, Patel elevates the material by making that aforementioned anger more deeply felt and the context hyper-personal as well as lathering the execution in every influence the writer/director/star has clearly made note of since directing became an ambition. 

Patel, the director, has a real penchant for framing his shots around an unexpected primary focal point that communicates plot elements visually while simultaneously building the world - not an easy task when considering you're doing so from the ground up. He does this in a somewhat brash fashion backed by either a heavy soundtrack or Jed Kurzel's Harold Faltermeyer-esque score that culminates in a style desperately trying to carve itself out of those influences. Whether it was my experience as a first time viewer or Patel actually realizing his intention through experimentation, by the end of the film the extreme from-the-hip angles coupled with the extreme close-ups of particularly gritty moments in hand-to-hand combat make for a very ecstatic and unrestrained tone that can't help but to be felt if not necessarily viewed as singular. But also, as a director, if you don’t have women cheer for you when you take off your shirt onscreen what are you even doing?

As one of three credited screenwriters, Patel - as stated - isn't reinventing the wheel here, but what is important is the film has an angle; a specific point of view from which it is being told and most key is that it latches on thematically to a small but critical facet in the revenge saga: drive. Patel and co. use the genre elements and story staples to structure the film accordingly, but mostly this is a movie about a guy so driven by his anger and rage that he will stop at nothing to avenge a brutal and frankly, mortifying, moment from his past. Yeah, the screenplay may have some glaring missteps when analyzed from a critical perspective, but it would seem this is due more to who had the say on the final edit rather than artistic narrative choices. Still, things like having our hero feel the need to say one cool thing before he kills the bad guy and not echoing the single kick knockout from an earlier moment in the film in the final fight feel very much like rookie oversights. 

Dev Patel writes, directs, and stars in Monkey Man where his character unleashes a campaign of vengeance against the corrupt leaders who systematically victimize the poor and powerless.
Photo by Universal Pictures - © Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

As for Patel the performer, this is played far more akin to something like Batman than he is John Wick (despite the in-movie reference) as this character referred to simply as "Kid" is not slick, he doesn’t have his shit together, and maybe most importantly - we can’t trust that he’ll prevail, but we root for him regardless. This is a largely wordless performance as well making Patel's performance even more intentional given all of the other roles he played in this production as his physical presence when matched with the soundtrack mix in certain scenes and sequences is beyond complimentary. The bathroom fight in particular is one of the coolest things I’ve seen be put together this year and is arguably on par with the M:I - Fallout bathroom fight in terms of pure energy and vibe. Furthermore, that Patel chooses such hard hitting music (including Ben Kim and Swedish House Mafia) to underscore every action sequence up until the climax in which we are served only acoustic guitar under the most chaotic sequence makes the design and the purpose all the more evident in the best way possible. 

Other aspects of note are that this has a killer training montage featuring Zakir Hussain on the percussion (also another aspect emphasizing the key role of music in the film as the music doesn't just add to the imagery but enhances them) as well as Vipin Sharma's Alpha being on some real Mufasa shit.

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