Monkey Man review: Dev Patel defies odds to deliver pulse-pounding action epic

MONKEY MAN, Dev Patel, 2024.  © Universal Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection
Monkey Man sees Dev Patel go both in front of and behind the camera. (Universal)

Monkey Man is a triumph of a film, one that shows what is possible when you push through regardless of the hardships you might face as actor-turned-director Dev Patel did to bring this to the screen.

The action movie sees Patel take on the title role, a character referred to as "Kid" who is set on getting revenge on those responsible for his mother's death years earlier. We land in the character's life at a time when his plan has begun to bear fruit, as he gets in at the bottom level of a nefarious trafficking ring whose base of operation is where he has the chance to encounter his enemies.

He will stop at nothing to avenge his mother and those all the other people who were wronged, but police chief Rana (Sikandar Kher) and politician Baba Shakti (Makrand Deshpande) are powerful men so it'll take everything he has to bring them down.

USA. Dev Patel in the (C)Universal Pictures new film: Monkey Man (2024).  Plot: An anonymous young man unleashes a campaign of vengeance against the corrupt leaders who murdered his mother and continue to systemically victimize the poor and powerless.  Ref: LMK106-J106451280324 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets.
Monkey Man follows one man's quest for revenge against those who killed his mother. (Universal)

Patel has proven himself time and again in front of the camera, and Monkey Man shows how skilful he is behind it too. Every scene has a purpose, every line feels perfectly placed, and what's more is it is brilliantly paced too — the narrative features several peaks and valleys of intense violence and quiet contemplation, bringing the story to life in a thrilling way without going too far.

The action is relentless, when it hits it really hits. Viewers can almost feel every punch, kick and bite that Patel's character throws or is subjected to, and the tension mounts to almost unbearable levels as he fights with everything he's got. The action sequences are not slick like other franchises but raw and unpredictable, and so very exhilarating.

Read more: Dev Patel and Monkey Man's tortuous road from script to screen

That said, the film does feature a few typical action movie tropes, which some viewers may find overly familiar. Even so, Monkey Man's training montage still feels fresh regardless of its familiarity because of the characters it helps introduce: Members of the hijra community, India's third gender, who help Patel's character on his path to giving a voice to the voiceless.

MONKEY MAN, Dev Patel (right), 2024.  © Universal Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection
The movie is full of intense action sequences and great acting, but it's Dev Patel's writing and directing that is the most impressive. (Universal)

Given the struggles that Patel and his crew faced to make this film a reality —including equipment failures, broken bones and the COVID pandemic— the end result is incredible.

It is so visually stunning you wouldn't believe that the director had to resort to using mobile phones and GoPros to shoot some of it. The fight choreography is intense and the acting is slick, but the strength of the piece is Patel's skills as a writer and director. He has delivered a moving, gripping action epic that has real heart to it, and a message that will resonate with viewers all around the world.

Monkey Man may be Patel's directorial feature film debut but it should by no means be his last.

  • 🎞️ When is it out: Out now in cinemas

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 5/5

  • 🎭 Who's in it? Dev Patel, Sobhita Dhulipala, Pitobash, Sikandar Kher, Makarand Deshpande, Sharlto Copley, Vipin Sharma.

  • 👍 What we liked: The high-octane action, the stunning cinematography, Dev Patel's excellent writing and pacing of the narrative.

  • 👎 What we didn't: While this is undoubtedly a hugely thrilling film, for some it might follow familiar action movie tropes.

  • 📖 What's it about? A young man is on a mission to get revenge on those responsible for his mother's death, and he will do anything to avenge her even if it means going to hell and back.

  • ⏱️ How long is it? 121min.

Watch the trailer for Monkey Man: