You might be going to see Monkey Man expecting something that it isn’t from the trailers. The movie is not John Wick. For that matter, not every action movie about someone getting revenge needs to be John Wick. After all, this movie even references John Wick, but it’s very much a different beast. Think of Monkey Man as the art house actioner. It’s got plenty of scenes of violence and bloodshed with lots of choreographed punches and kicks, but it also has an experimental, spiritual side that shows off that Dev Patel can both craft this wild story and also kick-ass to the highest level.

That spiritual side takes up a good portion of the first half of the film. It clocks in at just under two hours, so this is really the tale of two halves. You have the first half, which does have some frenetic moments; but most of that action is left for the second half. In the scheme of action films, this is less John Wick or even other traditional action films; it feels almost like a superhero origin story.

This is the story of Kid (Dev Patel) and how he exacts revenge on those who murdered his family and burned down/stole the land from farmers. Kid makes money fighting in an underground ring led by Tiger (Sharlto Copley). That ring leads him to an elaborate scheme to get working at the nicest hotel/nightclub in town, which is run by Queenie (Ashwini Kalsekar). He meets Alphonso (Pitobash) here and works his way up to being a waiter for the VIP area.

Dev Patel looking badass in Monkey Man
Dev Patel as Kid in Monkey Man

Kid works his way up to the night where he’ll kill Rana (Sikandar Kher), the Chief of Police who led the assault on his family’s home. That doesn’t go as planned and we get the first of many absolutely smashing fights. Rana and Kid’s fight in the bathroom involves a gun, a fishtank, other henchmen, and an escape that’ll leave you breathless.

That energy doesn’t stay too long, as Kid is now wanted by the police and being chased. Eventually, he’s shot twice, and he wakes up in a temple. His wounds have healed, and Alpha (Vipin Sharma) is taking care of them. Sharma’s performance, besides Patel, is a true highlight of the film. He leads the spiritual scenes with a sort of wonder and wiseness that’s much needed in the film.

Without spoiling anything else, all roads lead through to the enigmatic and mysterious Baba Shakti (Makrand Deshpande) who has something to do with the entire operation of displacing farmers and rising to power. Along the way, Kid is also helped by Sita (Sobhita Dhulipala), who has a pretty triumphant moment in the third act of the film.

Sobhita Dhulipala as Sita in Monkey Man

The spiritual elements and a sort of transformation that Kid undergoes is what lies at the heart of this middle section of the film. You get more of the backstory through flashbacks and see what exactly went down to lead Kid to this point in time. The inevitable training montage is sort of thrown on its head with the people in the temple helping out Kid. The only thing that could have been trimmed down a bit is showing the audience how good and decent Kid is. We know the guy is good from his actions. We’re shown him taking care of a stray dog and there’s a subplot of the temple being harassed for money.

Those couple of scenes, plus a bit of fat in the middle, slow down the pace of the film. However, all of that is well worth it for the third act. Kid is reborn as what seems to be the physical embodiment of Hanuman. From there, it’s all high-octane, frenetic fights with multiple combatants, knives being driven into throats, reinforcements arriving, sickles, and Dev Patel going all-out for the craft.

Dev Patel in a Monkey mask in Monkey Man

To make a press screening audience whoop, cheer, clap, and laugh along is a tough ask. Critics are a hateful bunch even with the most fun of movies. This third act of Monkey Man is pure cinematic magic. For an action fan, it is a dream, stacking up to the best of the best among recent action films.

Filled with triumphant energy, amazing fight choreography, Monkey Man might be a bit too spiritual, a bit too ethereal for some audiences, but it’s all worth it for the absolutely wild third act. Dev Patel shoots the movie with energy and a feeling that is unmatched these days. You’ll leave Monkey Man feeling like taking on the world.

Monkey Man releases in theaters on April 5th, 2024.

For more Reviews, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.

Keep Reading: