MONKEY MAN Review: Dev Patel’s Directorial Debut is Brutal and Full of Heart

Dev Patel excels in his directorial debut with Monkey Man! The movie hits hard in more ways than one.
Monkey Man

Now and then, we get a project that comes along and exposes you to what life is like from a different perspective. For many, basic necessities such as food, water, and a bed are things we take for granted. We can financially provide for ourselves and our families without fear of where our next dollar comes from. In Monkey Man, Dev Patel’s character, Kid, faces all the challenges previously mentioned. He is paid to get beat to a pulp in an underground fight club, all while disguising his identity with a gorilla mask.

He seeks to settle the score with Rana (Sikandar Kher), the man who took everything from him when he was just a boy. He devises a plan to infiltrate the city’s corrupt group of leaders, seeking to get his revenge that has been brewing for years. 

Patel leaves no crumbs in what is one hell of a directorial debut for the UK-born actor. Not only did he star and direct the film, but he also wrote and produced it as well. Knowing this, you can see how he has poured his entire heart and soul into the project, as he was very obviously involved with every aspect. If he keeps up this energy, the sky is the limit for what gems he could deliver throughout his very promising career.

Good Move Switching to a Theatrical Release

Jordan Peele is attached as a producer, a move that locked in a theatrical release instead of the initial Netflix-only route. Good choice, as seeing this on the big screen synchronized with amazing audio truly enhanced the experience. The soundtrack marries so well with what’s on screen, and you don’t have to be a psychic to assume Peele had his hand in the song selection.

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The unsung heroes of the film are hands down stunt coordinator Udeh Nans, fight choreographer Brahim Chab, and cinematographer Sharon Meir. Their roles in bringing this film together complement each other so well that it would be a shame not to give them their flowers when speaking on Monkey Man. Perhaps what stands out the most is the beautiful coloring, each location seeming to have a different hue to it (a particular club floor has a purple-ish tone, while a more basic level has orange hues).

Dev Patel

At the core of this John Wick-style revenge fighting movie is a beautifully painted story of the love between a son and his mother (I tried not to bring up Wick but Patel himself attributed it to being what inspired him). Through a series of flashbacks, we are propelled into Kid’s childhood and begin to understand how much his mother meant to him. In turn, our emotions begin brewing as we are now invested in seeing him seek out his revenge. While the trailer may lead you to believe Monkey Man primarily focuses on the fight club setting, it’s much more than that.

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The storyline has so much heart that you often catch yourself forgetting it’s a movie. Some political themes are so real that you feel sadness that other countries experience similar situations. Patel told a raw story of a regular guy who stopped at nothing and never gave up.

At the SXSW world premiere, Patel was met with a standing ovation at the film’s climax, and well deserved is an understatement. It’s not often an actor’s directorial debut captivates and blows away audiences the way Monkey Man did. This has box office hit written all over it. Hats off to Patel for putting together this beautiful love letter to the Indian culture and people. Monkey Man truly embodies what it’s like when an individual pours their heart and soul into a project as if it is their only chance to prove themselves. It’s such an electric and fun build-up, seeing it one time is not enough.

About Monkey Man

Monkey Man poster art

Release Date: April 5, 2024
Director: Dev Patel
Screenplay by: Dev Patel, Paul Angunawela, and John Collee
Producers: Dev Patel, Jomon Thomas, Jordan Peele, Win Rosenfeld, Ian Cooper, Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Christine Haebler, Anjay Nagpal
Executive Producers: Jonathan Fuhrman, Natalya Pavchinskya, Aaron L. Gilbert, Andria Spring, Alison-Jane Roney, Steven Thibault
Genre: Action Thriller
Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Vipin Sharma, Sikandar Kher, Sobhita Dhulipala, Ashwini Kalsekar, Adithi Kalkunte, Makarand Deshpande

Synopsis: Inspired by the legend of Hanuman, an icon embodying strength and courage, Monkey Man stars Patel as Kid, an anonymous young man who ekes out a meager living in an underground fight club where, night after night, wearing a gorilla mask, he is beaten bloody by more popular fighters for cash. After years of suppressed rage, Kid discovers a way to infiltrate the enclave of the city’s sinister elite. As his childhood trauma boils over, his mysteriously scarred hands unleash an explosive campaign of retribution to settle the score with the men who took everything from him.

Did you catch Monkey Man at SXSW? Will you be seeing it in theaters? Would you like to see Patel and Peele join creative forces again? Let us know on social media!