‘Monkey Man’ Review: Dev Patel’s Impressive, Action-Packed, Directorial Debut

Kenny Miles reviews Monkey Man, a wildly entertaining action movie and an impressive directorial debut from Dev Patel.

Dev Patel’s Monkey Man is a fierce, unrelenting, and gritty revenge action thriller and one of the most fun I have had with a movie so far in 2024. It is the tale of an underground Mumbai boxer who gains notoriety and is drenched in the blood of this very violent spectacle. Both visually stunning and emotionally engaging (in flashback sequences), you can’t take your eyes off it, not even the gruesome parts.

Numerous memorable action set pieces were more impressive on a tight budget. Upclose shots embed viewers in action, the antithesis of refined Hollywood action we would get in a John Wick movie, even though I wouldn’t compare this to the popular Keanu Reeves series like I have heard others. Watching the unpredictable, chaotic fighting, you see the messy elements of hand-to-hand combat, minus the slick choreography of a bigger production but the same amount of blood.

Like Patel’s character, awkwardly harnessing his fighting skills, his work behind the camera feels like a pro who has done this before. His style is imposing for his first feature. (I am already rooting for him to get a Best First Feature DGA nomination.) The harsh editing and the in-your-face cinematography are supposed to reflect the chaos and unpredictability of the world in which viewers are embedded. He did an excellent job balancing all that was happening with the location and the action, and it is more impressive considering the difficult time he had filming. If anything, I liked the more bonkers moments in the second act, which involved an incredible training montage that I don’t want to reveal.

See Also: ‘The Beekeeper’ Review: Statham Stings So Good

An unexpected element of Monkey Man was featuring the hijra community and casting the trans actor. There is a subplot about trans rights being threatened. This inclusion was admirable, and these characters had a very fun third-act fight scene where the political tension with their treatment boiled over (even if the political message in Monkey Man needed to be more apparent).

Originally meant as a Netflix production, the streamer’s content became re-purposed thanks to Universal and Jodan Peele’s Monkey Paw, who breathed new life into the project and believed in its theatrical viability. This is something to see on a bigger screen with a robust sound system to hear the crackling and a reactionary audience. I can see why this played SXSW since it was reminiscent of two movies that caused a stir there in the past: the spectacularly brutal violence of The Raid and the vibrant pulsating colors and general weirdness of Only God Forgives.

Monkey Man is now playing in theaters.

Written by
Kenny admired film criticism as a child when his mother wrote a positive review of Home Alone in his small town Arkansas newspaper and defended it against angry Letters to the Editor. Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies especially the cultural impact of a film, if something is overlooked by Hollywood, or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, specialty releases, an auteur director, a unique premise, branding, and THE much infamous "awards season." Kenny currently lives in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion working as an events marketing coordinator. He spends many Friday nights exit polling for CinemaScore (and his opinions are his own).

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