“MONKEY MAN”
Starring Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley
Written by Dev Patel, Paul Angunawela and John Collee
Directed by Dev Patel

By Matt Neufeld
April 5, 2024

It’s difficult to imagine what a confused Dev Patel and Jordan Peele and an army of misled producers were thinking when they decided to write, produce and green-light the disgustingly, revoltingly, disappointedly graphically-violent and utterly repulsive and stomach-churning revenge action B-movie “Monkey Man,” which, besides being flat-out unwatchable, is also tired, unoriginal and cliched. The whole muddled mess of morbid mayhem becomes instantly tiresome and forgettable just thirty minutes into this hollow torture chamber of a movie.

The problems with “Monkey Man” cover all filmic levels. This horrifically, literally bloody mess is poorly produced, directed, written and acted. As noted, the production is so relentlessly, grossly overly-violent, most of the movie is difficult to watch–but not on any intellectual level due to some deep, probing, intellectually-challenging deeper meaning. It’s just hard to watch because it’s so violent and repulsive, and any small, feeble, stretched attempts at any message are just hopelessly lost amid the pounding, noisy bloodshed. Dev Patel’s skittish, impatient, jittery, shaky and overly-frenetic direction is swamped by over-editing, a rushed pace, bad timing and pacing, too many close-ups and that over-reliance on that over-done violence. The script, such that it is, because there are strange, odd, out-of-place stretches of awkward silence, is cliched, predictable, unoriginal and corny, even, at times. And the acting is also cliched and predictable–and, often, amateurish.

The story is threadbare. The cinematography, editing and music are all dark, jumbled, disoriented, clunky and irritating. The martial arts action sequences, which are, in general, difficult to film, block, choreograph and stage in film, and of which there are far too many, are shot and staged in such suffocating, claustrophobic close-ups,with too-quick editing and deafening sound effects editing and an over-reliance on that annoyingly excessive violence, the sequences are eventually dulled, flattened and ultimately rendered ineffective due to their self-centered, sociopathic and pathological over-indulgence.

“Monkey Man” is just too violent, gross, disgusting and sickening for its own good. Or for anyone’s good.

Do yourself a favor this April, and avoid this movie.

The script, story and plot attempt to tell a far-too-basic, far-too-cliched and far-too-unoriginal revenge story that we all have seen far too many cliched times in far too many cliched B-movie revenge-oriented action movies. In “Monkey Man,” if you can believe it, evil and corrupt political, military and police officials raid a small village, ransack homes, kill innocent people, set fire to homes, drive people out, and, amid the destruction, an evil, corrupt police chief murders a beautiful, young woman while her young, pre-teen son, hidden away, horrifically witnesses the murder. We’ve seen this cliched scenario just too many times.

What do you think subsequently happens? If you’ve seen five, or five-hundred, revenge-oriented action B-movies, then you already know. And, watching “Monkey Man,” you know what’s coming in the entire movie during the movie’s first twenty minutes. You’ve seen this movie before, probably in your fever dreams after a long, cold winter’s weekend of channel-surfing second- and third-tier basic cable channels watching, well, an endless dark parade of revenge-oriented action B-movies. The kid grows up with a single purpose in life: to seek revenge on all of those people who killed his mother and attacked his village.

This is exactly, precisely, what happens in “Monkey Man.” Do you think, or accurately predict, that the kid, who goes by Kid in the movie–no, really, that’s not a snide aside–infiltrates the guarded, blue-blood, heavily-protected world of the police chief and his higher-ups; gains access to that world in record time; obtains the assistance of angry subordinates to do this; obtains the incredulous, amazing, coincidental assistance of a shady, secretive subversive underground society of spiritual, mystical types who just happen to sympathize with Kid, who nurse Kid back to health after he was injured, who promise to help Kid in his mission—-and—hold into your switchblades and throwing stars–just also happen to be coincidentally otherworldly adept in martial arts; and then Kid launches a literally unbelievable, full-scale assault on the political, military and police types, with the help of the mystical underground people; Kid dramatically but campily faces off one-on-one with the evil, corrupt police chief; he kills the police chief; he then faces off dramatically and campily against the reclusive, heavily-guarded political leader who ordered the village raid; he then dramatically and over-violently kills the political leader; and he then dramatically and campily dies in the climatic final fight.

You say you’ve seen and heard this before, as it slowly rambles on? Of course you have. We’ve all seen this exact, precise movie a thousand times before, and we don’t need to see it again. And we certainly don’t need to see this again with bone-crushing, bone-crunching, bone-breaking, decapitating, throat-slitting, hand-puncturing, limb-severing, head-smashing, arm- and leg-breaking, blood-splattering gross-out mind-numbing, dumb-downed excessive pathological graphic violence.

For their next film, Patel and co-producer Peele need to quickly steer far away from action, suspense, supernatural, horror, fantasy and science-fiction movies. They need to find, produce and release a nice, positive, non-violent, brightly-lit, uplifting and happy movie musical or G-rated family comedy, or perhaps a mix of those two genres. Just anything to wash away the nightmare memories of “Monkey Man.”

One of these days, hopefully, filmmakers will finally learn what Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Brian DePalma, Jason Blum and too many other splattermeisters and schlockmeisters seemingly failed to learn, time and time again: graphic violence is not the answer to anything, and too much graphic violence simply ends up working against your film and degrading the overall quality of your film. The less graphic violence, the better for everyone.

And, at the movies this weekend, the less “Monkey Man,” the better for everyone. Instead, let’s keep a sharp eye and ear out in the future for that upcoming happy and optimistic G-rated musical comedy from Dev Patel and Jordan Peele. Hope springs eternal.

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Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld is a longtime journalist, actor and film critic in the Washington and Baltimore areas. He has participated in many local film events and projects in the region, and he has appeared as an actor, supporting actor and extra in more than 45 films projects, at all levels, during the past 20 years.