Monkey Man

Directed By Dev Patel

Starring – Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash

The Plot – An anonymous young man (Patel) unleashes a campaign of vengeance against the corrupt leaders who murdered his mother and continue to systemically victimize the poor and powerless.

Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, rape, adult language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use.

Monkey Man | Official Trailer 2 (


From Slumdog to “Monkey Man”, Patel’s career trajectory has landed him in some unforeseen avenues of creative exploration that have proven his versatility as an actor. But as a commanding storyteller, it’s like experiencing his passion and exubberance for the arts all over again, with grippingly intense and visually hypnotic stylistic impulses that seem to convey all of the knowledge attained from working alongside some of the game’s best directors. Whether in the iconography of the imagery, permeating complexly rich and alluring angles of claustrophobic framing to feed into the condensing realities of his character’s bleakly dire situation, or the cruel and ravaging intensities of the year’s best action sequences, with razor sharp fight choreography, blanketing sound mixing, and naturalistic urgency, it’s clear that Patel has a uniquely compelling voice for cinematic flare that belongs here just as much, if not more, than anyone, and considering “Monkey Man” is his debut effort in such, it’s remarkable the kind of unwavering connection that he has to an audience, especially while reveling in the grit and grime of this nightmarish landscape of Yatana, where evil feels like another in the sordid list of eclectic characters that pollute its streets. Patel mostly lands all of the right moves towards conjuring a refreshingly original vision, but he’s met halfway with a three-dimensional script from Paul Angunawela and John Collee, who take our protagonist down some truly psychologically subversive roads that I couldn’t of expected in your basic outline of a revenge tale that it feels like we’ve seen even half a dozen times over the last couple of years. What makes “Monkey Man” different, however, is that as to where films live and maintain permanence within the simplicity of a man or woman seeking revenge against those that wronged them, this film pushes the envelope in ways that give audience plenty to chew on, with meaningfully layered depth of social commentary among religious and class societies, mythological subtext fleshed out towards sentimentality, and a full-fledged exploration of childhood trauma that helps to breed empathy and investment towards the character in ways the conventional patterns of characterization leave him mostly ambiguous. What’s important to note is that all of these ingredients enhance the exploration thematically without undercutting the momentum from the aforementioned riveting action, instead maintaining their fresh appeal as a result of the ways they’re sporadically manufactured in the depths of the conflict, all the while stablilizing the momentum from our ambiguous protagonist, which feels far more personal than just another tragic loss of love. Elsewhere, the film’s indulging cool factor amidst atmosphere that refuses to take itself too seriously, comes as a result of meticulously placed twisted humor, a catchy pop-heavy soundtrack, and mixing drops that articulate silence as a means of self-humility for the character surprised by matters that don’t always go their way. While the film is an unforgivingly brutal and hypnotically toxic engagement, it’s these moments that never lose sight of the humanity caught overhead in the struggle, choosing to deviate away from badass heroes like John Wick, whose perfection in planning might be his biggest downfall in audience relatability. That’s not to say that Patel’s protagonist doesn’t revel in the maniacal mayhem that effortlessly outlines his character as a God of sorts who is sent to right the wrongs of a past generation, but rather he’s still very much a man who is growing and expanding throughout his proverbial origins story, with emphasis on the vulnerability factors that only further enhances the appeal of such tightly contested physical conflicts. On the subject of Patel, he predictably knocks it out of the park, but in ways that truly commit him to the darkly depraved realities of the character, where love and loss have manifested the ghost of horrors past for all to confront. Long gone is the three-dimensional charisma that Patel has utilized towards so many charming and lovable characters, instead using his impressive physicality and assertive intensity towards eliciting something enigmatic that I truly didn’t think Patel had it in him, but alas I’m none the more surprised because of what he’s able to pull off here. Between doing his own stunts and controlling the gravity to how so many of these tense scenes come across, an underlining wallowing could’ve easily sufficed, but Patel instead focuses on the elements of vengeance that drive so much of the character’s long-distance journey, in turn humbling us with so much resiliency that draws audiences to the character, despite us knowing so very little about him, to begin with. Lastly, while the cinematography is hit and miss for my experience, the better half of those matters pertain to the neon exubberance and slow-stilled photography that feels on loan from a Nicholas Winding Refn film, complete with absorbing toxicity in the atmospheric elements that make this established setting feel like a lived-in place among its power hungry peers, but beyond that a luminating radiance that paints a false sense of security for the audience, before things get as gruesomely unforgiving as humanly possible.


One small and one major problem keep “Monkey Man” from being a year’s best movie, and they’re all the more unfortunate considering they’re such easy things to change about the execution without costing it any of its integrity. On the smaller side of critiquing, I found the editing to be quite abrupt and abrasive during while outlining the two sides of the storytelling, reality and psychological, that the entirety of the film’s structure is founded on. When the film momentarily transitions to flashbacks of good or bad in the life of Patel’s protagonist, they’re not as thoroughly established towards effortlessly illustrating what side of the delve we’re on, so the transitions take a bit longer to define than I would’ve appreciated, especially with how rapid they shift in the blink of an eye. Without a different color grading or foggy outlines of the framing, to name a couple of methods, the timelines occasionally overrun into one another, creating not only a sloppy transition that’s distracting to the storytelling, but also shifts within climatic momentum that are often sacrificed to play heavy-handedly towards flashback imagery that is on the nose, when everything else is subversive. My other bigger problem with the experience was the inferior side of the cinematography, with shaking camera consistencies during the fighting sequences that were dizzying in the worst kind of ways. Considering it’s 2024, I was hoping that the action genre would alleviate this painful trope, but it seems more movies are bringing it back, and the result here are these tightly-framed, jumpy-illustrated sequences that frequently broke my concentration to the various pay-offs. What’s truly tragic is the urgency of the direction, and the crisp chemistry of the fight choreography already conjure intensity and urgency in ways that the camera work didn’t need to add towards, and if it instead opted for more wide angle framing to its photography, then we could’ve seen more of the impressive elements within those key contributing factors that were so prominent, but as it stands this is an unfortunate example of overtly enthusiastic elements that were more distracting than dynamic.

“Monkey Man” is a rip-roaring directorial debut for Dev Patel, who addresses sociological oppression with bone-crunching brutality in the depths of one man’s riveting road to revenge. However, Patel’s work behind the camera is only surpassed by his commitment to craft in front of it, handing in a physically grueling and emotionally wrenching turn that once again proves that there is no genre that he isn’t capable of successfully tackling.

My Grade: 8/10 or B+

2 thoughts on “Monkey Man

  1. I knew my bias and love for Dev would block out major negatives for me. But you’re totally right – the editing and transitions could have been a LOT better. Such a strong directorial debut but room to grow I hope! I’d love to see him explore more! This is absolutely my favorite movie of the year so far. My watching experience was spectacular! Happy you enjoyed it to a B+ level!!

  2. Yo! This surprises me in the best way! When I saw this advertised as “the best action movie in a decade+” I of course rolled my eyes. Patel’s characters and Peele’s vision individually hold enough ground to be extremely intrigued, and the trailer did it justice by making it seem like a young John Wick with flashbacks to give character background, which I believed was one of the lone flaws of JW. I never doubt the truth in your words, but somehow I still struggle believing Patel to be an action star, even though he absolutely is great enough of an actor to make it believable. This appears to be a must watch, simply on the basis of watching Patel’s abilities at work, and then staying for some ripping action. Whatever you do, please don’t get this man a dog….

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