Even for guys in my position, try as I might we just can’t watch them all that’s why these little trips down memory lane when something gets reissued turns out to be a hell of a lot of fun. “Monkey Shines” is a silly premise to be sure, but it sells it thanks to some solid direction and a cast that embraced the nature of the story that they were trying to tell.
Allan Mann (Jason Beghe) seems to have everything going for him. He’s in great shape, he has a beautiful girlfriend but it all goes south when a horrible accident leaves him paralyzed from the neck down. He’s now bitter, tired, angry and vengeful as he is just fed up with himself and everyone around him. However all that changes one day when he is given Ella, a monkey that is trained to meet his every need and provide some companionship, but things start to get a little weird when Ella starts to anticipate Allan’s thoughts. So much so that some pretty bad and strange things start to occur as Allan’s meddling mother, his ex-girlfriend and his incompetent doctor all suffer at the hands of his new caregiver and he realizes that he has to stop this maniacal creature in hopes that something doesn’t happen to him as well..
It’s silly and it’s dumb, something that in lesser hands wouldn’t have worked at all, but “Monkey Shines” with George A. Romero at the helm actually makes for an entertaining yarn of a thriller where you just need to let yourself go and enjoy the ride
A well shot affair with solid visual effects, the story moves at a decent clip and the setting of the old desolate house that he lives in makes for a good back drop in this kind of narrative. The character development is a little thin as most of the supporting players are just around to play a role in order to justify their respective deaths but the three primary leads did enough of the work in order to prevent the narrative from having any serious lulls.
Jason Beghe is one of those solid yet unremarkable actors who only just managed to find a certain degree of a niche in the hit TV show “Chicago Fire”. This was his first leading man role and he actually did pretty well with it considering that he could never get out of the chair for the bulk of the film and he gave us the anger and desperation that you would expect from someone who was trapped and unable to move anything but their head. Kate McNeil was fine opposite him as the monkey trainer and eventual love interest and actually fought threw the silly moments and sold how the monkey was actually jealous of their burgeoning relationship and the consistently underrated John Pankow was great as Geoffrey is overworked scientist friend whose experiments on Ella just went father then he would have ever expected. An early career appearance from Stanley Tucci, Janine Turner and Stephen Root round the ensemble and it is a shame that the story doesn’t do more with Root’s character as I could have watched an entire movie of him as a nefarious research doctor.
At the end of the day, “Monkey Shines” is just a solid piece of entertainment as it won’t go down as a masterpiece of a thriller, but there is something so innately entertaining about a monkey going after a person with a straight razor that you can’t help but get wrapped up into the why of it all.
3 out of 5 stars.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are quite good and the special features include a feature length audio commentary track from writer/director George A Romero, “An Experiment in Fear-The Making of Monkey Shines”, a brand new retrospective documentary about all aspects of the making of the film., an alternate ending, deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage, a vintage EPK, the original theatrical trailer and TV spots.
“Monkey Shines” is now available on Blu-Ray from most major retailers.