When Masks Can’t Hide Pain

17th Dallas International Film Festival

 If you have ever hidden behind your hand to blind your sight from a scary scene,
you can understand, partly, half of the avoidant tactic toward uncomfortable situations.
Most hide behind a mask because they fear others knowing who they really are.
Showing yourself can be too much and is intensified if trauma ever nicked a part of your soul.

Many actors who find great success and then tend to disappear have been known to reappear directing their own film. If you can’t land the part you see yourself playing to define your pinnacle, and you can’t land it by audition, make the film yourself and cast yourself in the lead role. Dev Patel might have done. He directs and plays The Kid. And. Bam. Mission accomplished. But you better make it a good stab winkūüėŹ because filmmaking is ExxpENSivE. Dev Patel (The Green Knight, Slumdog Millionaire) succeeds. He rakes in every dream role combined into one ebb and flow in the Monkey Man‚ÄĒ one seriously packed action film.

Co written, and, directed solely by Patel, it’s a warm-welcomed Bollywood invasion to be sure to follow. Once Bombay, now Mumbai is the East’s mecca film powerhouse. They are genuinely super talented actors. It’s in their blood. They are born with dancing singing dance fighting rolling down hills in love genes. Monkey Man is none of that. It is a Waterford Crystal centerpiece overflowing with colorful Jolly Ranchers placed in the middle of India’s slums. In order to escape you have to savor every flavor first. This is the best visual appetizer I can give you, as the trailers, thank God, do not blow this film’s cover.

If you research violence in film, you find lengthy lectures on blood slayers in American films Asian films, but rarer would be to find violence as prevalent in the Indian Culture. England blatantly bans such material. Rumor had it during a time Angelina Jolie films were blocked for her / their violence. This was almost two decades ago now. Times have changed. England’s censorship has not, however. You can find a ‘rang’ of blacklisted films still banned due to violence today. This British/Indian-made film breaks two molds.

And Monkey Man’s gruesome revelry satisfies in more than one way. When your mask cannot tame pain any longer, it comes off. Let anger reign. Once a threshold of enduring societal malintent has been reached, anger rains like precipitation. Those beaten down by situational hell, created by some evil force to dull existence, will fatefully find salvation- either on their own, or by arrest. Whether audiences understand this type of oppression or not, they will be able to relate. Every day we become more numb to crooked lifestyles. More numb to elite leaders working people over. Being used, and the sense of giving up. Bending over to take a beating. And then rapturously this Kid character in a movie “handles” the problem. What violence is to come but that has been prepared? Horrendous radical psychotic lashings of knives and bullets provide the cure. Sweet release. I’m not saying anyone should actually go out and do these things in real life; nevertheless, watching the bad guys (and there are sooo many of) suffer punishment and brutal termination feels like catharsis.

But direction carries a new angle in Jordan Peele’s Monkey Man. It’s the closeness to India. Before all depicted of India was pollution and trash. This setting of dirt and diamonds and an ambiance of noir using contrasting characters allows humanity presence… and the mild comical ridiculous truth of existence to amuse us. So if you’re thinking John Wick, forget it.

The most pleasure within its two hours of slum and color is the playfulness of cinematographer Simon Temple to capture India as you didn’t know existed. Angles, lights, reflections, glass, and water, texture. Sex for sale is nothing new to any country, but mixed with mystery and culture it heightens intrigue. India mafia most definitely exists; within an original screenplay, truth is told by artistic liberty. It’s not fiction here baby, so let the drugs take hold and consume lavish debauchery before deliverance arrives.

More and more scripts get to the point piecemeal in the last five years or so, but not without purpose. Anyone who struggles with this concept might find this film trite. For me, I like getting to the point without knowing too much too soon. Like the Kid, and that is his name, hiding behind a mask, the film hides understanding all the emotions from us. We feel them but we don’t know why we feel them. And this is the film’s genius. Trust me when I say it is full and so much that my words here cannot spoil it for you.

You will love everyone on its pages. From the dialogueless characters to the minions or kingpins to our main character. They are greatness. India slums however are not. Nothing is amiss with the on-set creations of rotten stinking terrible atmosphere — and I’m not only talking about its streets. The people also are made of this list, and they exist in non-fiction. I’ve experienced first-hand “soft ball” criminal racketeering. Again, don’t worry, no spoilers here. Save one: the bond between a mommy and a son. Not many bonds stronger than that one.

15th Dallas International Film Festival