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The Hollywood Insider Monkey Man Dev Patel and Jordan Peele

The newest release from Jordan Peele’s MonkeyPaw Productions hit theaters nationwide. ‘Monkey Man’ is the directorial debut from Dev Patel, known for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Skins’. ‘Monkey Man’ premiered on March 11, 2024, at South by Southwest Film Festival, but has been in development since 2018. Dev Patel is not only making his directorial debut, but he is also credited with the story, writing, as well as acting as the lead in this film.

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The story revolves around Kid, a young man who fights in a monkey mask and works in a secret brothel for India’s elite. Through both of these jobs, Kid plans to take vengeance on the police who destroyed his home and took everything from him. I won’t go into too much detail, as the story is easy to spoil, but ‘Monkey Man’ does feature some gore and violent scenes. As someone who is easily squeamish, this film was a tough watch. Not to mention, there is a violent sexual assault scene that was hard to stomach as well.

Overall, ‘Monkey Man’ is a strong piece that utilizes all of Dev Patel’s talents. His performance was a stand out in this film, which makes sense since he knew this story inside and out as the director, a writer, and the one who came up with the story. The dialogue was so natural, as each word felt authentic. I also appreciated the fact that there was no forced romantic arc for the protagonist, as this is a familiar trope for action films since most action films don’t pass the Bechdel Test. Each scene was visually stunning, and the use of color as a symbol throughout the film was done tastefully and memorably. This is a film well done.

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One element that I not only appreciated as an audience member, but Dev Patel worked hard to achieve, is having a reason for the action. Something I have noticed in many action films is that there is little motivation for the action. Fight scenes take place for the sake of having a fight scene, or for a meaning that doesn’t have enough substance to really affect and motivate the characters. While ‘Monkey Man’ does have a lot of trauma to handle for audience members, the film does have a tangible reason for the plot to occur. When it is finally revealed why Kid has gone down this path, the whole film makes so much more sense. It does take a while for this motivation to be revealed, making ‘Monkey Man’ a bit confusing for the larger part of the film. Not to mention, it would help to brush up on Indian history and politics to understand the film to its full potential.

One big element of the story is the Hindu tale of Hanuman, a god who is half-monkey, half-human. The story is told and referenced throughout the film. As Kid’s story progresses, so does that of Hanuman. Different images of Hanuman’s story parallel that of the film’s storyline. While I did think that this was a powerful way to connect the Hindu lore and stories from Kid’s childhood to that of Kid’s journey in the film, the parallels did feel spoon-fed to the audience. Granted, this is Patel’s directorial debut, and his use of symbolism will improve with experience and time.

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Recently, while taking the weekly cinema trip, I have begun to notice a trend of extreme violence in recent films. Violence in film is nothing new. Action is one of the most popular film genres and many films feature violent situations, as they do help with plotlines. However, the amount of graphic gore in film in recent months seems to be growing. ‘Drive Away Dolls’, which seemed like a lighthearted comedy, opened with a sickening beheading scene. ‘Immaculate’ and ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ were expected to feature some blood and scares, but not as harrowing as what was shown on screen. After seeking ‘Monkey Man’ in theatres, many audience members left the theatre, and another threw up as soon as the film was over. While reflecting on Patel’s film, the majority of what came to mind was the violence.

This is an important story to tell. Southeast Asian voices are extremely rare in Hollywood. Not to mention, stories surrounding world affairs and events happening in countries outside of America are extremely hard to find in Western Cinema. These stories need to be told. I am a believer of the idea that those not experiencing oppression or violence should be able to at least learn about what is happening and to have empathy for others. However; I feel as though this exact same story could have been told in a way that put the focus more on the empathy of the story, rather than the violence of Kid’s revenge. The focus of the story is supposed to be in other places, and yet I feel too much focus was put onto the violent scenes because of their graphic nature.

Granted, the story of ‘Monkey Man’ is one of the strongest elements of the film. I enjoyed the guessing game of what Kid’s next move would be and trying to figure out why he was doing what he was doing. ‘Monkey Man’ is a classic revenge story with a lot of heart inside of it. Kid’s journey from a wounded animal to a fighter is extremely poignant, especially once you figure out how he gets here.

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‘Monkey Man’ is a film that is well worth the watch, despite many the gory moments. The story is something that needs to and deserves to be told. Patel’s intention of the real and authentic action story was tangible and struck cords with audiences. Through watching ‘Monkey Man’, I think it is safe to say that Patel has a strong future in directing, writing, and of course, his notable acting performances.

Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Vipin Sharma, Sikandar Kher

Director: Dev Patel | Writer: Dev Patel, Paul Angunawela, John Collee

 | Producers: Dev Patel, Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Ian Cooper, Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Christine Haebler, Anjay Nagpal | Cinematography: Sharone Meir | Editing: Dávid Jancsó, Tim Murrell

By Abigail Johnson

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.”

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