Film Critics Rani Jadfa and Samantha Hadley review Dev Patel’s first blockbuster as director, finding it to be a masterpiece of cinema


This review contains spoilers for Monkey Man.


Dev Patel has been known as an incredible actor for some time now with an Oscar nomination under his belt, but Money Man is his directorial debut, and the man has found his new calling.

Monkey Man follows Patel’s character – who adopts the names Bobby, Kid, and Monkey Man – through an action-packed, gore-thriller as he seeks revenge on the man who killed his mother. This epic revenge story is shaped by its violence but not in the way of Tarantino’s glorification. It feels much darker, grungier, and necessary for survival. There are moments that will force your eyes shut and times when you will not be able to look away.

The fight sequences are unlike anything I have ever seen: Patel performed all the stunts himself, enhancing the film’s raw nature. Even with an impressive martial arts background and rigorous training for the film, Patel still managed to break multiple bones. One injury to his hand almost caused the entire set to shut down but Patel just stuck a metal screw inside and ploughed through – another credit to his resilience.

The fight sequences are unlike anything I have ever seen

Furthermore, the film leans deeply into Indian and Hindu culture with the story of Hanuman carrying the entire plot. Although the film has received some criticism for its incorporation of Indian politics, it still manages to fully invest itself into the Asian landscape rather than simply acting as banners of decoration to prove a point on representation.

My favourite scene came at a crossroads between Indian culture and the action genre: The Monkey Man is at his lowest point after a death-defying injury and has to build his strength back in a temple where he finds sanctuary. Bobby is beginning to slowly hit a punching bag when a tabla player, which is an Indian drum, joins in. He establishes a rhythm that Bobby follows, as they begin a captivating dance between music and fists.

Dev Patel has made his mark as a new director in Hollywood with a nail-biting, cinematically beautiful, blood bath of a film – I await with bated breath to see what he creates next.




As I took my seat in the cinema, ready for my first (and not my last) watch of Monkey Man, I had no idea what I was about to witness. Sure, I’d seen various clips of Dev Patel passionately calling it a film “for the underdogs”, and smiling with tears in his eyes at a standing ovation at his premiere. But I had no idea I was about to witness a masterclass of acting, action and an abundance of raw emotion illuminated by the film’s gorgeous cinematography.

The film’s structure certainly reinforced the “underdog” narrative – the opening story of Hanuman, the Hindu deity, introduces an intriguing framing device for Kid (Dev Patel)’s character development. The film hearkens back to this narrative through verbal and visual motifs, most memorably when Kid rips open his chest to reveal the cavernous white void of his heart, just as Hanuman revealed a painting of Rama and Sita within his heart to prove his devotion. This structure of references makes the narrative and Kid’s emotional arc feel more timeless and high stakes for the audience.

Despite the film’s heavy tone and subject matter, Pitabhash Tripathi’s performance of Alphonso, Kid’s accidental sidekick, elicits numerous laughs from the audience. Similarly, you can’t help rooting for the romance between Kid and Sita (played by Sobhita Dhulipala) to work out, despite the inevitability of its failure due to its complicated setting. Patel’s script effortlessly balances these tones and emotions, which is not easy given the frequently fast-paced action scenes throughout the film.

Monkey Man is a heart-wrenching tour-de-force

It is impossible to write about Monkey Man without considering the action. In a contemporary cinematic landscape where violence often feels unnecessary or “tacked on” for marketing purposes, Monkey Man stands out in the best wayAll its fight scenes have emotional and/or narrative significance – the training montage with the Hijra community spectating felt gorgeously intimate, and the audience were effectively immersed in this through the slow pacing of the music and Kid’s character development.

The film is structured to culminate in a confrontation between Kid and the ominous, quietly terrifying Rana (convincingly performed by Sikander Kher). While the violence between Kid and Rana towards the end felt like clunkiest fight scene of the film, it still had emotional resonance for the audience, due to the frequent flashbacks slowly and tensely revealing Rana and Kid’s backstory. The fight scenes are also elevated by the cinematographic choices – Kid coming out of the elevator, washed in red light leaving only his silhouette visible, to confront his final opponent, was an absolutely spell-binding image, and heightened audience excitement and suspense for the final action scene.

Overall, Monkey Man is a heart-wrenching tour-de-force. An unforgettable feat of cinema, that is made even more impressive when considering Dev Patel’s well-documented physical, financial and emotional struggle to get this film to cinemas. Patel’s performance of Kid is undeniably the highlight of his acting career, and I very much hope he has the chance to direct more films in the future, though it would be difficult to top this raw, pulsating heart of a film, this champion of the “underdogs”.


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