‘Monkey Man’ MOVIE REVIEW: Dev Patel Gets Bloody with Stylish, If Unsurprising, Revenge Actioner


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With Monkey Man, his feature directorial debut, Dev Patel takes a classic revenge tale to the streets of Mumbai and reinvents himself as an action hero in the process.

Patel’s unnamed lead, referred to in the credits as Kid, but also under the pseudonym of Bobby, has been honing his skills and earning money in underground prize fights run by a man named Tiger (Sharlto Copley). The fighters take on animal personas and The Kid scraps under a monkey mask in deference to his favourite story from childhood – that of the Hindu monkey deity, Hanuman.

But the Kid has a mission and takes a job at a prestigious hotel catering to the rich and elite. The Kid’s aim is to get close to the chief of police, Rana (Sikandar Kher), and crooked politician, Baba Shakti (Makrand Deshpande), who are responsible for the destruction of his village.

Monkey Man’s story does not get more complicated than good old-fashioned thirst for vengeance, but Patel delivers it with style, using the cramped Mumbai streets and decadent high-rise opulence to striking effect. He also takes the time to interweave a commentary on political corruption and wealth disparity.

Universal Pictures

Although comparisons to John Wick are inevitable thanks to a combination of well-tailored suits, fancy hotels and cold brutality, there’s also a little arthouse sensibility lurking in the background. The purple and red hued lighting and dark, dingy shadows bring Nicolas Winding Refn to mind – particularly Only God Forgives and Drive – alongside the Kid’s taciturn demeanour and propensity for violence.

Action wise, there’s a bit too much shaky cam deployed, so although the fights are well executed, they owe a debt to the kinetic hyper-editing style of The Bourne Supremacy. Which means, at times, it can be hard to comprehend. Monkey Man would benefit more from the clean, efficient fight aesthetic of The Raid or the classic Hong Kong fight cinema I’m sure helped to inspire it.

Patel makes for an effective and believable tough guy though, and is a highly watchable presence throughout – whether he’s patting a friendly dog, or driving a knife into a bad guy’s throat – it’s a broad canvas! He also acquits himself well as a director and it will be interesting to see what direction he takes next.

While the distinctly Indian aspects of Monkey Man make for a refreshing point of difference, there are not too many surprises to be found – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing in an unashamedly genre movie. Ultimately, Monkey Man delivers solidly on what you expect, without being revelatory.