FILM REVIEWS: The Last Omen, Monkey Man and Seize Them!

Our fascination with religious matters fuels the release of a sixth film in The Omen series. But if you want to visit a real Westside church instead of praying that you won’t be too scared at Cineworld Broad Street or Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza, try the GS Central Church at 41 Gas Street which has Sunday services at 9.30am, 11.30am and 6pm.

Launched in 2016 inside a converted former industrial unit, this church is where the Black Sabbath Bench was first unveiled by cross-wearing guitarist Tony Iommi on 9 February, 2019.

The date was coincidentally the 40th anniversary of UB40’s first gig at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath – today there’s a giant poster of the reggae stars next to the Brindleyplace tram shelter on Broad Street.

THE FIRST OMEN (15, 119 mins). Satisfying appetites stirred by The Exorcist three years previously, Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976) was one of the stand-out horror films of the 1970s, with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick adopting a child who turned out to be the Antichrist. Ooops!

After forgettable Omen sequels in 1978, 1981, 1991 and even a dull remake in 2006, The First Omen prequel is all about young Damian’s birth.

The verdict: *** After opening with Redditch-born Charles Dance’s cameo revealing an old head for horror, a young American nun played by British actress Nell Tiger Free arrives in a deliciously recreated Rome 1971. The First Omen is a cut above standard religious horror films, including recent close relative Immaculate, also set in the Italian capital.

Links to the original Omen will appeal to fans and the birth is memorable, but Hollywood’s naughty sound guys foolishly dilute genuine suspense with sporadic aural assaults.

Although the plot gives The Last Omen some credible merit by challenging falling church attendances with fear, Hollywood’s never-ending feverish reliance on nuns to generate horror tropes is becoming nun-believable. 

MONKEY MAN (18, 121 mins). Oscar-nominated actor Dev Patel (Lion) stars in his own passion project in this faith-based, Asian revenge thriller. He also wrote, produced and debut directed the film to try to better represent his own cultural identity in the action genre.

To revenge his mother’s murder which he watched as a ‘Kid’, he’ll take a few early beatings as the masked ‘Monkey Man’ to raise the money to infiltrate those responsible.

Verdict: *** Fair dues to Danny Boyle, who made stars out of Ewan McGregor and Kelly Macdonald with Trainspotting (1996), before repeating the trick with London-born Dev Patel (now 33) in Slumdog Millionaire (2008). Like that Best Picture Oscar winner, Monkey Man was intended for TV (Netflix in this instance).

Monkey Man is so unapologetically thirsty for revenge, that Get Out star Jordan Peele backed it for cinemas where it now feels like the most explicitly violent multiplex release since Malaysia’s The Raid (2011). If only it was a thriller to match.

Patel’s central character also fails to withstand comparisons with superstar Keanu Reeves’ human battering ram last seen in the fourth John Wick film released in March 2023.

Anyone watching Monkey Man unaware of its overlong intent will find out how strong their own stomach is when it quickly becomes clear that the Bruce Lee-inspired Patel is heading for a world of unadulterated savagery.

The authenticity of the ’action’ cannot be doubted. It’s as raw as a lion’s breakfast, with one stabbing scene so realistic it drew gasps from the audience I saw it with. If that’s your bag, for whatever reason, you’ll love it. If not, run a mile …

SEIZE THEM! (15, 91 minutes). When a violent peasant revolt ends the Dark Ages reign of Queen Dagan, she flees across country on foot with Shulmay (Lolly Adefope) and Bobik (Nick Frost). 

The verdict: ** Living and Sex Education star Aimee Lou Wood shines brightly in the lead role, despite this Horrible Histories-style British ‘comedy’ being let down by needless expletives. Using them with real purpose could have alleviated the need for yet more stabbings and violence.

Dressed as if he’d rather be playing Freddie Flinstone, Nick Frost is a one-joke, foul-mouthed sidekick.

PICTURE CREDITS: The First Omen, 20th Century Studios; Monkey Man, Universal Pictures; Seize Them!, Entertainment Film Distributors.


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