REVIEW: A Web Series Starring and Directed by Asian-American Men: ‘Munkey in The City’

I’ve recently had the pleasure of being introduced to a web series called, Munkey in The City, by the series’ director Michael T. Nguyen. On top of blogging about Asian-Am culture, I happen to also be a visual artist. Having been a graphic design major, I’ve been exposed to a film or two and happen to be a huge TV/movie buff. So you can imagine how intrigued I was to witness my two worlds of blogging and creating collide. The Munkey in The City web series is brought to us in six chapters and is available to watch on YouTube and Vimeo. I hopped onto the show’s YouTube channel and delved into the six episodes.

Ep. 1-Munkey watching Evet at party.jpg
Munkey himself, played by rising star Kenny Leu

We are introduced to Munkey, a 20-something writer-slash-busboy just trying to make it in what Nguyen refers to as “The City.” Though this show was shot in San Francisco, as a native New Yorker I definitely noticed the similarities between the two metropolia. Nguyen sets the tone and I immediately detect a How to Make it in America (HBO) meets Master of None (Netflix) vibe. I identify with Munkey’s hustle-struggle that comes with making it as a creative in a big city. You get an authentic slice-of-life peek of what its like to be an Asian-Am millennial dude. While I am transported into Munkey’s world as a fly on the wall, I feel the weight of his insecurities paired with good old-fashioned awkwardness as he flirts with cute, witty and sometimes holier-than-thou girls at bars.

Ep. 6-Evet whispering in Munkey's ear.jpg
Episode 6 still | Evet whispers into Munkey’s ear

What I especially like about this series is that it leads you to deep-rooted emotional places and then proceeds to lighten the mood with a mixture of drug-related and dark comedic relief. It allows you to empathize with Munkey and gallivant alongside him on his winding journey. Simultaneously, Nguyen doesn’t shy away from poking fun at his main character, as if to deflect reality’s gravity. An example of this is when Munkey comes up short while attempting to pay for his goods at the register of a corner store. The cashier dryly and sarcastically offers, “I have a master’s degree in architecture,” inferring that the menial task of ringing broke people up is simply beneath him. In Munkey’s frequent self-scrutinizing and embarrassing moments, we are introduced to the “devil” on his shoulder. As Munkey navigates through his day-to-day, we uncover more about his inner demon as they slowly but surely come into the light of day towards the end the series.

Ep. 6-Thompson lighting up blunt (CU, park)Ep. 6-Munkey outside w_ Munkey King in background

Kenny Leu, the lead actor who plays Munkey, has a certain ease about him and his performance is quite exceptional. The audience is well aware of the extent of Munkey’s intellect whenever he provides commentary on film, literature and the like with others. Leu does a seamless job of showing how blindly and desperately his character Munkey wants to make it as a successful writer. When he shamelessly gets his work in front of top publishing houses, I took note of Leu’s comedic timing as Munkey vehemently defends his work.

It’s an honor for me to be able to highlight young, talented individuals such as director Michael T. Nguyen and actor Kenny Leu. I look forward to future installments of the Munkey in The City web series, as well as witnessing Nguyen and Leu’s future endeavors on the silver screen.

To catch MITC on social media & their website, click on the links below:

Facebook | TwitterInstagram | Website

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Behind the scenes: (L to R) AD Sienna Beckman; Dir. Michael T. Nguyen; Prod. Angela Chen; Actor Kenny Leu
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