Dev Patel Delivers the Goods in ‘Monkey Man’ (Review)

Who doesn’t love a good revenge movie? Throughout the years, we’ve seen John Wick take out people for killing his dog, Robert McCall takes out people for an old friend, and Cassandra Thomas hunts down the men who sexually assaulted her best friend. The latest comes in the form of a young man seeking revenge for the death of his mother in Monkey Man

Monkey Man follows the story of a young man who sets out for vengeance against corrupt leaders who murder his mother and continue to victimize the poor and powerless. Dev Patel makes his feature directorial debut in the film while also starring in the lead role. 

The movie starts at a fast pace, as we see this young man fighting in the middle of the ring under the name “Monkey Man.” The young man takes dives for the local promoter in return for a paycheck. The Kid (Patel) is attempting to build up his bankroll to get close to the city’s high-ups and begin his takedown of them. 

Enter Queenie (Ashwini Kalsekar), who was sitting at a table talking on the phone when she was interrupted by a man in a wheelchair. The entire thing was a ruse as the man took her wallet, which ended up in the hands of the Kid. This opened the door for the Kid to bring the wallet to Queenie, and when she attempted to pay him, he pleaded with her to give him a job.

Dev Patel in Monkey Man - in the mask copy
Dev Patel in Monkey Man. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Dev Patel Nails the Action in Monkey Man

It is very early in the year, but I find it hard to imagine that Monkey Man will not be nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture at the SAG Awards. Of course, the action has to be perfect when you are in a revenge-style action film. Patel mastered the art of defense while also delivering within his offense. There were a few moments I was left with my jaw on the ground because of the attention to detail within the fight choreography. 

You would’ve never guessed this was Dev Patel’s first time behind the director’s chair because the way he shot these action sequences was nothing short of remarkable. You could see a mix of John WickThe Raid, and, crazy enough, Rocky within his directing. Within the transition from the second to the third act, a training montage made it feel like you were getting ready to watch Rocky Balboa head to take on Ivan Drago. It was such a captivating moment. 

Dev patel in Monkey Man - in action
Dev Patel in Monkey Man. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The Cultural Atmosphere is Felt 

Dev Patel based the story on Hanuman, a Hindu god with the face of a monkey, the body of a man, a golden crown, and a long tail that follows his every move. Throughout the film, you see the presence of the Hindu culture within the representation in the production, costume, and makeup. It was amazing to see Patel pay homage and use the atmosphere, colors, and clothing, but those within the community filled the people representing the actors. 

Dev Patel in Monkey Man
Dev Patel in Monkey Man. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The film felt long and lacked supporting character development

A run time of two hours and two minutes might not seem long, but for an action movie, shorter is always better. A bit of a muddy second act made the film lose some steam. You shave 15-20 minutes off this movie, and it is much better because of it. Another minor nitpick timewise is that in the third act, as we see the Kid build his way up to the final boss, it took too long to build. Outside of that, the third act fully brought things full circle. 

Outside of the Kid, you never felt like any other characters had time to fully develop into something meaningful. You were somewhat given bits and pieces of so many people but nothing to chew on. I would’ve enjoyed some more time with Sita (Sobhita Dhulipala) as she was an intriguing piece of the puzzle, but her story felt completely undercooked. 

Monkey Man deserves to be seen on the big screen. 

Everyone complains about Hollywood focusing on superhero movies and remakes, yet we see original films hit theaters and a huge lack of support. Artists like Dev Patel pour their blood, sweat, and tears into films like this to get them made, so let’s do them the favor of showing up at the theaters. Plus, you will be massively disappointed if you wait to watch this one at home. 

Overall, Dev Patel delivers the goods in his feature directorial debut. His balance of high-octane fight choreography and an elegant nod to the ancestral lore proves he belongs behind the camera. Outside of the minor hiccups, Monkey Man is an excellent addition to the action genre that plays perfectly on the big screen. 

Monkey Man will be in theaters on April 5, 2024.

Learn more about the film, including how to buy tickets, at the film’s official website.

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