April 4, 2024

GENRE | Dev Patel Fights for 'Monkey Man' x SXSW 2024

"Time to do God's work."
Sharlto Copley Dev Patel | Monkey Man | Monkeypaw Productions
SXSW Film & TV Festival
Handsome British actor Dev Patel makes his exciting directorial debut in the Indian revenge action thriller Monkey Man. Produced by Jordan Peele, the stylized film is a violent, blood-soaked experience blending various movie subgenres and clearly inspired by a variety Asian martial arts cinematic influences.

Self-described as "John Wick in Mumbai," Monkey Man feels like a high-class version of an early 2000s-era direct-to-video, star-driven action movie despite its grimy, nasty material. Patel's confident directorial eye smashes the usual fight choreography with an organized chaos to its messy but thrilling composition.

From an extremely basic script by Patel, Paul Angunawela, and John Collee that sometimes feels chopped up in editing, things kick off brutally inside the ring before the unnamed protagonist's backstory is slowly revealed piece by piece. It's a standard revenge story, but the actor/director's pulsating facial performance throughout many scenes says it all, as well as his inclusion of elements from the contemporary Indian political discourse alluding to the rise of extremist right-wing Hindu nationalism.

Patel makes a promising start behind the camera. Monkey Man's biggest flaw might easily be its over-ambition and relentlessness. There's so much bone-crunching, non-stop action that the otherwise spare film can hardly contain the visual scope of its bloody violence. Still, the novice filmmaker makes sure to inject enough memorable character moments to make the dazzling imagery worthwhile. Patel's passion and physicality very much bleed through the screen.

Monkey Man premiered at the 2024 South by Southwest Film & TV Festival (Austin, Texas) as part of the Headliners section.

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