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Dev Patel makes directorial debut with violent ‘Monkey Man’

April 5, 20243 Mins Read

It’s intense, violent and bloody and no one will consider “Monkey Man” dull.

Actor-writer Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) makes his feature-film directorial debut in this actioner set amidst the grittiness of Indian street culture.

That culture involves an organized criminal element and a citizenry oppressed by those who rule it.

Patel stars as Kid, a young man living in poverty who is consumed by the possibility of exacting revenge on those responsible for his mother’s death.

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Kid is an amateur MMA fighter who dons a gorilla mask to take a pummeling from other more skilled adversaries. It is a means to an end, however.

His physical pain is part of the process of healing his emotional hurt or at least getting the opportunity to mend.

Part of that process is getting a job in the rarified air where movers and shakers in his town commiserate. He bides his time working his way up at a fine dining restaurant then to the V.I.P. area of a club associated with that establishment. His goal: slaying Rana (Sikander Kher), a corrupt police official responsible for running farmers and families off their land so that a shady religious figure, Baba Shakti (Makarand Deshpande), can lay claim to it.

One of those instances led directly to the death of Kid’s mother, an incident that’s led to a growing rage that’s made him obsessive about getting revenge.

Patel directs from a script co-written with Paul Angunawela and John Collee taking inspiration from the tale of Hanuman, a Hindu deity that symbolizes “wisdom, strength, courage, devotion and self-discipline.”

There is no way that Kid represents those characteristics from the film’s start. “Monkey Man” represents the journey of a young man who is seeking revenge, but by the same token isn’t allowing what many might consider blind rage to corrupt him completely.

It’s difficult to not see the opulence the privileged class – including police and religious figures – wallow in all while slums, poverty and a barely existing subclass endures in the shadows of the city’s skyline.

The script delivers commentary on thier plight with pointed barbs and uses it justify Kid’s violent rampage – after a spiritual awakening, of course.

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There are morsels of morality to chew on, but first and foremost, “Monkey Man” is an action film. Patel proves more than capable of handling himself behind the camera – even if a bit hectic in how he directs. He prefers a-you-are-there style that puts the viewer in the moment, but may also be off putting in some of the more hectic fight scenes.

And while those scenes are elaborate, the dialogue is kept to a minimum. Kid is a person of few words, preferring to allow deeds and actions to speak for him.

Ultimately, “Monkey Man” gives action movie fans what they crave. For those looking for something more substantive, you’ve seen this before.

George M. Thomas dabbles in movies and television for the Beacon Journal.


Movie: “Monkey Man”

Cast: Dev Patel, Makrand Deshpande, Pitobash, Sikander Kher

Directed by: Dev Patel

Running time: 2  hours 1 minutes

Rated: R for strong bloody violence throughout, rape, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use.

Grade: B-

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