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by Victoria Alexander

Terrific. Has its own feel, look, texture and a bravado performance by the director/star. The India locale and theme are original with high, brutal action that makes Patel a serious contender in the John Wick genre.

I’ve traveled to India many times and while Kali the Destroyer reigns in my house, second in status is the Hindu deity Hanuman. Kali and Hanuman have shrines alongside the Brazilian deity, Exu. Burning incense to all the many tribal gods and deities in their mini-temples, I follow French philosopher Voltaire's advice. His last words at his deathbed were in response to a priest urging him to renounce Satan. Voltaire said: "Now is not the time for making new enemies.”


Hedging my bets, I honor them all. Just in case…


The chaos of India life is a strong presence and gives MONKEY MAN a menacing tempo that is unsettling. It begins with memories of the idyllic life of a young boy (Jatin Malik) and his mother (Adithi Kalkunte). The young boy’s life is filled with happiness. The mother is a devotee of Hanuman, the half monkey, half human commander of the monkey army and Lord Rama’s devoted companion. Hanuman’s extraordinary powers were taken away from him when he was cursed by an old man as he tried to disrupt the man’s meditation. When Rama’s wife is kidnapped by his enemies, Hanuman prays for his powers back to help.


Political unrest and a dishonorable “guru” mar the mother and child’s peaceful life. The political aspects are rather muddy – but that’s how they are all over the world. This is not a political drama, but does feature the underlining conflict present in the country.


The young boy, now a man (Dev Patel), makes a meager living as an underground fighter. He wears a monkey mask. He is paid to lose and must also shed blood. He has a revenge mission and needs money for information so he allows vicious beatings. He enlists his friends to steal the wallet of a very connected woman, Queenie (Ashwini Kalsekar), the foul-mouthed, steel-balls manager of a criminal enterprise nightclub. Returning the wallet, he asks for a job as a dishwasher. He says his name is Joe.


Joe needs to move on from being a dishwasher. He makes a deal with the annoying “boss” of the kitchen staff, Alphonso (Pitonash). Making Alphonso a lot of money, he is rewarded with a move to club waiter. He is now in the world where his revenge target socializes. He also sees the alluring prostitute, Sita (Sobhita Dhulipala), mistreated by the men who frequent the club. He cannot ignore the ugly scene. It torments him. She tells him he needs a tough stomach to work at the club. So, primarily, she tells him to “get on board or get lost.”


Joe has a very hard time accepting the club’s style of doing business and goes crazy without a good plan. He misses his target. A riot of wild mayhem leaves many hitmen dead. Joe is savagely beaten and on the run from police. Nearly dead, he is found by a community of Hijras. 

Hijras are recognized and accepted in India as the “third gender.” They are believed to have special powers given to them by Lord Rama. Hijras, who are transgender and intersex, wear glittering, elaborate saris and offer blessings to the public. They sing and dance at temples, weddings and birth ceremonies and then rewarded with money. Many Indians believe Hijras have the power to bless or curse, therefore, Hijras hold a unique place in society.


Recalling what Voltaire said, would you dare risk a curse by refusing to welcome Hijras to your wedding or birth celebration?


Not wanting to ruin the plot, I will not reveal the reason for Joe’s obsession with revenge. The Hijras nurture Joe back to health and he begins to seriously develop fighting skills. Getting beaten up in a one-sided fight does not required skills. Searching for Joe, the evil police find where he is hiding and destroys the Hijra temple community.


Now Joe is really mad. It’s like someone shot his dog. He is ready and a bloody massacre makes John Wick’s fights look like earning a yellow belt in Taekwondo.


Since Joe’s love of life is minimal, we know carnage is guaranteed. And director Patel doesn’t let stunt doubles save his star. His star takes a beating. In fact, Petal’s “Joe” spends the film getting stabbed several times, shot, and nearly decapitated. Well, quite a few hired killers foolishly ignored the 100 guys that got killed before their chance at Joe.


I’d love to tell all screenwriters we need to know the bonus money for killing the man-who-cannot-be-killed. Because, if it was my job, I certainly wouldn’t be the next man up – oh, unless I would consider the crazy guy was already exhausted killing 100 men and has nothing left.

This is how heavyweight boxing matches go – it’s tiring to throw punches. In 2020, the World Boxing Council increased their heavyweight classification to 224 pounds. The Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk fight is scheduled for May 18, 2024, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Considering Fury’s 6’9” height and weight, Usyk should just wait for Fury to get tired. He should have Fury running around the ring with those heavy gloves on. So, my theory is Fury has to finish the fight in the early rounds.


I’d like to thank Jordan Peele for saving MONKEY MAN. Peele is riding Hollywood’s Ferris Wheel of Fame and clearly threw his good will around getting MONKEY MAN a theatrical release and, I saw it in IMAX! 

Petal has found his second act and is on his way as a fine director and star. He delivers a high-octane, high-concept action thriller.

The ALL is Mind; The Universe is Mental.”

Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer Critic. For a complete list of

Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to:

Contributing to: FilmsInReview:

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society


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