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Home > Monkey Man (2024): A Review

Monkey Man (2024): A Review

This Spring’s Action-Packed Ride

Dev Patel has proven himself as an actor, appearing in some of the best films in recent decades. From The Green Knight to Lion and to Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire, Patel has shown to be a dynamic filmmaker in front of the camera. Now, he has taken his skills behind the camera with his directorial debut, Monkey Man. Originally slated to be released on Netflix, the film was saved from heading straight to streaming and received a theatrical release by Jordan Peele. Peele, who saw an advanced screening of Monkey Man, took the movie to Universal and encouraged them to buy the film from Netflix since he firmly believed the project was worthy of a theatrical release. 

The Monkey Man

Directed by Dev Patel, Monkey Man tells the story of Kid (Dev Patel), a man living in Yatana who is earning a living from fighting in illegal boxing matches. As a child, Kid’s village is taken by a spiritual guru, with the help of a corrupt cop named Rana (Sikandar Kher), leading to the death of his mother. Seeking to avenge his mother’s death, Kid gets hired as part of a kitchen staff at a club that supplies the wealthy in India with drugs and prostitution, with Rana being a regular customer. At the club, Kid befriends another employee, Alphonso (Pitobsh Tripathi), and a prostitute, Sita (Sobhita Dhulipala), who helps him on his quest for revenge. 

Patel’s twist

On its surface, Monkey Man is a simplistic revenge story that has been told hundreds, if not thousands, of times. A man is wronged and now spends his life seeking revenge on those who wronged him. It’s a genre and storytelling element played out in every way. Although it’s a common storytelling trope, Patel adds elements that help the movie feel fresh, elevating the seemingly simplistic story. For example, the film is set in India. It utilizes the culture to flesh out the world of Monkey Man, making it oddly refreshing. 

Through the Indian setting, Patel takes the opportunity to go beyond the traditional revenge story and adds commentary on India’s politics. Monkey Man explores the political corruption in India’s government and the struggles with the caste system. Including these heavier themes gave the film more depth, as it has more to say than just exploring the nuances of revenge. 

While it’s excellent that these elements were added, the political aspects hindered the pacing. When the story is focused on Kid’s revenge, the movie gives off a tense energy, but when the political elements are being explored, the film grinds to a halt. This struggle with pacing is sprinkled throughout the movie, so it consistently flips from having high-paced energy to a more moderate pace. It leaves Monkey Man feeling uneven and struggling to find the right balance of its themes.

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Going bananas

Many action films today produced by Hollywood have a clean, glossy look. Take John Wick, for example; many of the settings in those films tend to be fancy, clean-looking locations that give off a specific aesthetic. This tends to make those characters feel wealthier and of a certain class, whether those are the intentions or not. However, unlike Hollywood, Monkey Man contains numerous scenes that are set in filthy and grimy locations, adding a different aesthetic from other recent action films that further emphasize the poverty that plagues India. 

On the other hand, similar to other popular Hollywood action films, Monkey Man struggles with well-shot action sequences. Some great action moments are well-choreographed and, in the frame, but these sequences are often hard to watch. The camera is hardly steady, barely allowing viewers to see the stunts on screen. Likewise, the movie is practically all close-up shots, with few medium to wide shots. In the beginning, it was hard to notice. Still, as the film progresses, it becomes evident that most of the shots are close-ups. This becomes more of an annoyance, as viewers are given little perspective of what’s occurring in a scene overall, especially with the action. 

While the trailer promises a bloody, violent ride, the second act is light on the brutality. The first and third acts comprise most of the action, whereas the second act slows the movie considerably. This caused a lull in the second act, as it focused on developing the character in a less interesting way.

Kid and the Monkey Man

As Dev Patel has proven in other movies, he is one of the best younger stars in the industry. His talent in films such as Slumdog Millionaire and The Green Knight is brought over into Monkey Man, with Kid being the best character in the movie. That also leads to another disappointing aspect, as the rest of the cast is left feeling like stock characters rather than having their own nuances. 

Even with Kid being the best character, the development of his story arc in the second act was explored dully. The interesting aspects of his character come from his being stuck in the criminal underworld of India, whether working at the club or his involvement in illegal boxing fights. The shift away to focus on his past and village felt like it took away a certain spice without replacing it with something more interesting. These cultural explorations help make Monkey Man stand out in the genre. Still, they could have benefited from being better integrated into the story. 

While Monkey Man has numerous flaws, it still provides several elements that make it stand out in the bloated action genre. Patel has shown he can be a powerhouse behind the camera, especially in terms of stylization. However, some kinks need to be straightened out before moving forward. If Patel continues to work in the action genre, he has the potential to enhance it, similar to Peele’s work within horror. 

Monkey Man is currently playing in theaters.

Dev Patel in ‘Monkey Man’ | Image: Universal Pictures

Monkey Man (2024) Official Universal Pictures Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Mason Kupiainen is a recent Butler University graduate with a degree in Creative Media and Entertainment. His work has been published in Butler Collegiate, The Mall, and Byte BSU. Along with written work, he has a videography portfolio with Indy Blue Video, Byte BSU, and Ball Bearings.
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I am an aspiring author living and working out of Honolulu, Hawaii. I received my bachelor's degree in Art History at Westmont College and then pursued a master's in Museum Studies at the University of Hawaii. I am currently working on a few novels, and am thankful for the opportunity to expand my creative writing voice at Dead Talk Live.