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MONKEY MAN: MAYHEM WITH A PURPOSE?

Actor Dev Patel, who won over audiences around the globe in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, is flexing his muscles by co-writing, directing, and starring in Monkey Man. By diving into Indian culture, myths, and traditions he attempts to ground his brutal story in something more substantive than mere escapist entertainment. His title character is a wrestler who wears a monkey mask in the ring but feels alienated from a society that lionizes a corrupt government. He wants to do his part to set things right.

What emerges is a relentless series of ultraviolent fight scenes with no redeeming qualities. “Remember who you are,” he is advised at a crucial point in the story. What he remembers is seeing his beloved mother raped and tortured by a vicious police captain. Monkey Man is nothing more than a two-hour hyperenergetic martial arts revenge thriller with a superficial coating of mysticism.

The first-time director has done his homework on how to make every blow, every crash through a window pane, every mirror-shot pay off, visually and aurally. Filmed in Indonesia, home of The Raid and other eye-gouging action yarns, Patel has called on every trick of the trade. Genre fans may disagree but I would rather see an in-your-face action yarn than one that pretends to be something more…and doesn’t know when to quit.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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