A frenetic, furious debut from Patel

From left, Dev Patel is Kid and Pitobash is Alphonso in "Monkey Man", directed by Dev Patel....
From left, Dev Patel is Kid and Pitobash is Alphonso in "Monkey Man", directed by Dev Patel. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
A visceral, violent, and vibrant pastiche of auteur South Asian action, Dev Patel’s directorial debut revenge-thriller stands as a remarkable addition to his career.

Monkey Man (Reading) tells the ferocious tale of a young man, known simply as ‘‘Kid’’ (Dev Patel), who ekes out survival in India’s brutal underground fighting circuit. Donning a monkey mask and embodying the Hindu deity, Hanuman, he hones his combat prowess to exact vengeance against the perpetrators of violence in a deeply unjust world.

Blending brutal, sweaty combat with an emotionally-charged narrative, the film’s raw, guerrilla-style kick-ass action only heightens the impression of Kid’s underdog identity. You can feel his physical and psychological development throughout the film, with gritty quick-cutting, ballistic action that makes John Wick look tame.

Set against a backdrop of grungy alleyways and neon-lit nightclubs, Monkey Man weaves a fiery tapestry of South Asian culture. Beyond Bollywood, the film draws inspiration from the auteur action cinema of Bruce Lee, John Woo, and Park Chan-wook, to name a few. As the protagonist’s blind fury becomes calculated revenge, music punctuates the action, enriching the depth sewn into a story so strongly rooted in India.

A labour of love, Patel’s directorial debut stemmed from the desire to provide representation in film that has often been marginalised in Hollywood, enduring broken bones, a torn shoulder, an eye infection, and a pandemic along the way.


Dev Patel
Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Vipin Sharma, Sikandar Kher, Sobhita Dhulipala, Ashwini Kalsekar, Adithi Kalkunte, Makarand Deshpande
Rating: (R16)