Review: Monkey Man is a brilliant, brutal and unique action flick

Inspired by The Raid and John Wick, Dev Patel's directorial debut brings a refreshing intensity to the big screen with this gritty and ultraviolent revenge action thriller.

Monkey Man blends an Indian setting and Indian folklore with Western action cinema sensibility, creating a unique film with a more wonderfully international flavour than we normally get with this sort of thing.

It's a brilliant achievement but should not be viewed by the faint-hearted with its relentless, unapologetic brutality.

Set in the heart of Mumbai, the film explores themes of social inequality and the caste system in India, underpinning the fictional story with potent real-world rage - for good and bad.

While I much prefer the hard-edged, grim-faced tone of this compared to the winky jokiness of the John Wick sequels and a lot of similar American films, Monkey Man still has a certain comic book element to it where the protagonist is an unstoppable killing machine. For me that makes it a little uncomfortable that many of the characters appear to be allegorical stand-ins for the fundamentalists currently running India and ruthlessly persecuting minorities there.

Dev Patel is Monkey Man.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

The storytelling is also a little messy and unrefined, which isn't a huge problem with this type of film - a more significant shortcoming is in not all of the violence being incredibly well depicted. For the most part the action sequences are amazing and there is some delightfully inventive bloodshed, but it's just not quite as good as it gets in other contemporary action movies.

Minor quibbles aside this is seriously awesome to have in New Zealand cinemas. Patel is fantastic in the lead role, bringing a great level of gravitas to it along with his impressive physicality, and his just as impressive skills as writer/director.

Monkey Man excels as a pulse-pounding thrill ride that goes for the jugular and savagely gets it. I can't wait to see where Patel's filmmaking goes from here.