Might as well come out and say it…Monkey Man is one of the best action movies I’ve seen in a long time and one of the most beautifully shot action films ever made. Listening to writer/director/star Dev Patel talk about the making of the film in the post-screening Q&A, you also realize that it’s nothing short of a miracle that it exists. That it took Jordan Peele coming on board to help the film find distribution is a testament to just how seemingly out of touch the industry can be at times. I’ll see this film again in theaters when it releases widely on April 5, but I know that that experience will pale in comparison to its world premiere last night at the Paramount Theater in front of over 1,000 fans who…were…there…for…it.

In Monkey Man, Patel plays a young man scraping by in the slums of India. He’s haunted by memories of state-sanctioned terror and the brutal murder of his mother. He gradually infiltrates a network of corrupt politicians and thugs to exact revenge on the men responsible for his mother’s death and the suffering of countless others like him. There’s not much more to say plot-wise, so if that and the trailer (below) don’t lure you in, then you might want to check your pulse.

Monkey Man, starring Dev Patel, is about as visually cool as it gets.

I don’t know how many times I wish I could have stopped the film to take in the beauty of the shots whizzing by. Patel and his team of editors thankfully know when to slow it down a touch to let us revel in the moment, even if those moments are few and far between. I joked with my colleague Benjamin PowerGriffin, who attended the screening with me, that the film felt like John Wick with a soul. Patel gives a brilliantly seething performance, and for as much as this is billed as an adrenaline-packed action film (and it is), there are quieter, more contemplative sequences at work too. When he hits rock bottom and his brought back to life by a rag-tag group of devotees, who we later learn can also kick some serious ass, the film employs traditional Indian drum music to freshen up the well-worn training montage. And underneath all of this, the Hindu myth of Hanuman is a thematic backbone of the film, lending it a spiritual and religious texture that most films in the genre don’t have.

My one criticism of the film would be the politics at the heart of the narrative, which feel simultaneously thin and muddy, no doubt given the social/cultural context from which I viewed the film. Corrupt politicians are familiar the world over and the unholy marriage of church and state threatens to undo democracy in countries around the world. The depictions of both here ask viewers to fill in many blank spaces. But this is a tiny criticism of an otherwise perfect, thrilling action film.

Hopefully viewers will answer the bell and support Monkey Man on opening weekend to signal to the industry an appetite for more smart, innovative takes on the genre like this one.