Ultra-violent action movie surprising passion project for Patel

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Director: Dev Patel (feature debut)

Starring: Dev Patel, Sikander Kher, Sharlto Copley

Rating: ***

This revenge is a dish best served bold

Movie fans who might only be familiar with Dev Patel for his obliging and distinctly unthreatening presence in films such as Slumdog Millionaire and Lion could be in for a severe shock should they catch a glimpse of Monkey Man.

This unapologetically confronting and ultra-violent action movie is very much a passion project for Patel, who not only takes the leading role in Monkey Man, but also makes his directorial debut here.

While the punishing physicality Patel brings to his performance will surprise many, it is the array of skills and singular vision he displays behind the camera that truly impresses.

Action fans in particular will be left both stunned and exhilarated by Monkey Man. Particularly when Patel’s intricate control of every aspect of the production is truly at its peak.

This isn’t just a movie that immediately throws everything but the kitchen sink at its audience. Monkey Man then proceeds to unbolt that kitchen sink from the wall, and chases each and every viewer into their very own discomfort zone.

Patel plays an enigmatic underdog we will come to know as Kid. Jobs are hard to come by in the crowded metropolis of Yatana – a hellish reimaging of modern-day Mumbai – so Kid has been making ends meet as a human punching bag in an underground fight club.

Kid puts on a monkey mask every night, takes a fall so his opponent can win, then takes home his pay packet.

So far, so brutally bleak, right? Wrong. Just wait until Kid finds himself another job. Soon he will be rising through the ranks of Yatana’s most exclusive nightclub, a sleazy joint where sex, drugs and sinister behaviour reign supreme.

Kid is here because he just has to be. For this is the preferred playground of the man who killed Kid’s mother many years ago, the cravenly corrupt police chief Rana (Sikander Kher).

The expected showdown between Kid and Rana – a marathon fight sequence that reaches John Wick-like levels of beautiful chaos – happens earlier than expected, but hardly marks the end of the picture.

In fact, Kid has a long way to go – and many more bone-crunching blows to endure – before he has a chance to deliver the comeuppance that will define his destiny.

There can be no doubting that the arrival of Monkey Man is guaranteed to propel Patel towards bigger and better things as an action filmmaker.

However, the movie is far from perfect. Particularly on the editing and scripting front, where too many flashbacks and repeated plot points squander the power generated by Monkey Man’s most electrifying scenes.

Monkey Man is now showing in general release


Rating: ****

Now streaming on Apple TV+

Comedy nerds who appreciate deep dives into the history of jokes (and how to tell ’em) had better make tracks for this superb two-part doco on the career of American funnyman Steve Martin. The first episode borders on flawless, as it examines Martin’s marathon trek from obscurity (starting out as a magician at Disneyland) to mega-fame (becoming the first stand-up comic to graduate from clubs to stadiums). After honing a deceptively appealing streak of humour where silliness was all that mattered, Martin turned his back on everything (he has never performed stand-up again since bowing out in 1980).

The second part of the doco zeroes in on Martin in the present day, where a lucrative (though not as creatively fulfilling) run in movies gave him the means to pursue many and varied interests. Though the true essence of Martin the man does eventually elude the filmmakers, the lasting influence of his early work upon modern comedy is there for all to see and cherish.


Rating: **1/2

General release

This attractively packaged animated affair certainly ticks all the right boxes in terms of source material (a best-selling kids’ book), voice casting (Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh takes top billing) and tight pacing (the whole thing is impeccably timed to be run and done inside 80 minutes). However, when compared to its current market rival in cinemas, the effortlessly crowd-pleasing Kung Fu Panda 4, The Tiger’s Apprentice comes in a clear second-best.

The story centres on naive San Francisco teen Tom (voiced by Brandon Soo Ho), who doesn’t realise his beloved grandma Mrs Lee is the crucial guardian of the Phoenix Stone, an ancient doo-dad that allows good to hold sway over evil. Upon the arrival of a shapeshifting supervillain (Yeoh) who soon erases Mrs Lee from the picture, it is left to Tom to quickly learn how to fill the role vacated by his granny.

The necessary schooling comes from a part-time tiger named Mr Hu (Henry Golding), who gradually introduces Tom to a secret squad of warriors linked to the animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Though there is plenty going on here, a distinct dullness sets in once all characters are established, and battle lines are drawn for a predictable finale.

Originally published as Monkey Man sure to propel Dev Patel’s action filmmaking career

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