‘Monkey Man’ Review — Dev Patel Arrives as a Next-Level Action Star

Estimated read time 7 min read

The Big Picture

  • Monkey Man
    is a passion project for Dev Patel that sees him taking a new leap in his career.
  • The film showcases intense action sequences that serve the character’s evolution effectively.
  • While the action scenes excel visually and narratively, pacing issues and weak supporting characters hamper the film.

While amassing a wildly impressive filmography of acting credits, Dev Patel recently started to put a significant amount of focus on his work behind the lens. After directing two short films and contributing to four feature films in a producorial capacity, Patel is leveling up in a big way, and a wonderfully distinct way, with his latest release. Monkey Man marks his feature directorial debut.

Monkey Man

A recently released ex-felon living in India struggles to adjust to a world of corporate greed and eroding spiritual values.

Release Date April 4, 2024

Runtime 113 minutes

What Is ‘Monkey Man’ About?

Patel also stars in the film as Kid, a man determined to take down the corrupt forces who exploit and terrorize the powerless, and are also responsible for the murder of his mother. He begins the film as a human punching bag. Night after night, Kid puts on a gorilla mask and steps into the ring of an underground fight club where he’s regularly beaten bloody in exchange for cash. However, that routine changes when Kid seizes an opportunity to get vengeance, kicking off an extremely violent and bloody mission to decimate those responsibe for taking everything from him, and countless others.

It’s abundantly clear that Monkey Man is a passion project. Every frame of this film is crafted with purpose, coming across as one big celebration of culture, mythology, resolve, and the iconic action films that inspired Patel. You can also sense he’s giving every ounce of himself to the role of Kid. Whether he’s unleashing bloody mayhem via a complex set piece or quietly stewing while remembering the horrors of his past, you can see the weight of the rage Kid is carrying. But that’s the problem. You can see all of this. You don’t always feel it.

The Monkey Man script is loaded with fascinating supporting characters, a powerful backstory, and information regarding the chilling current corruption that has a death grip on the city of Yatana. The combination of those storytelling assets, however, is woven together in a muddy manner resulting in pacing problems, confusion, and feeling at a distance from Kid. Patel’s a powerhouse tackling this significantly internal performance, yet I often felt like I was watching Kid go on this mission from afar, not experiencing it with him.

The Literal Punches of ‘Monkey Man’ Hit Harder Than the Emotional Ones

While several supporting characters do make an impression, particularly Sharlto Copley courtesy of his one-of-a-kind showmanship as the emcee of the underground fight club and Pitobash who sparks a rather charming connection with Kid amidst all of this crime, violence, and carnage, most feel like thinly drawn side characters, merely nudging Kid forward on his journey and little more. One could argue that suits the action-heavy story structure, each supporting character serving as a vignette during Kid’s evolution as he levels up via action, but ultimately, it makes them less interesting and weakens beats in the tail end of the movie that should have packed a bigger emotional punch. The literal punches, however? Those are fantastic.

Patel may need to work on story structure — he co-wrote the Monkey Man script with Paul Angunawela and John Collee — but he’s a natural at crafting action sequences. There’s no doubt Monkey Man will boast some of the most memorable fight scenes of the year.

Sharone Meir’s cinematography has it all. Action scene or not, his visuals are all stunning and textured. Every ounce of the city feels lived in and highly atmospheric. On top of that, the closest Monkey Man comes to putting the viewer in Kid’s shoes is during those action set pieces, in large part thanks to Meir’s intimate and high-energy camerawork and the downright phenomenal stunt work. Patel, Meir, and the stunt team always successfully establish a sense of geography, whether a fight takes place in tight quarters or a more expansive space, and from there, there’s no holding back. They capture significant chunks of complicated fight choreography in lengthy shots that then benefit from well-timed and judicious edits by Dávid Jancsó and Tim Murrell. There’s an intimacy to their combined work that ups the intensity of the fights tenfold and also affords ample opportunity to revel in the more extreme moments, the standouts being a fight involving an ax and another that takes place in an elevator.

‘Monkey Man’ Speaks Best Through Its Action

Dev Patel raising his bloodied fist as Kid in Monkey Man. Image via Universal Pictures

Another top-tier quality of the action in Monkey Man is how well it serves the character. In fact, it’s often more successful in doing so than the film’s dialogue and exposition-heavy scenes. Kid’s evolution is mental, emotional, and physical. He kicks off the film ready to be beaten to a pulp and lose, but grows into a formidable force and you can track that development throughout the fight scenes. Not only does the quality of them serve the character’s arc quite well, but it also ensures each fight is defined from another.

Monkey Man is a true mixed bag. The action is staggeringly impressive, both from a visual and storytelling standpoint, but the material in between runs the risk of deflating the experience via pacing problems and narrative confusion. Why teeter positive on Monkey Man then? Because it’s abundantly clear it was crafted by a passionate and determined artist with a vision. Patel swings big from start to finish in Monkey Man. Some of those are home runs and others are misses, but there’s an assuredness to all of his choices that makes Monkey Man especially exhilarating to watch play out, and it also makes Patel a very exciting voice to watch in this space.

There’s no doubt Patel has got boundless potential and power as a director, and I look forward to seeing him harness that more and more as he rocks the industry with bold visions.

Monkey Man Film Poster

Monkey Man


Monkey Man isn’t perfect, often getting dragged down by thinly sketched characters, but it marks Dev Patel as a director to watch.

Release Date April 4, 2024

Runtime 113 minutes


  • Every frame is crafted with purpose, drawing from both culture and mythology as well as the action films that inspired Patel.
  • The action scenes, in addition to serving the character quite well, pack a real punch and are certain to be among the most memorable of the year.
  • From the cinematography to the editing and stunt choreography, everything ups the intensity of the fights as it revels in the more extreme moments.


  • The film still remains a mixed bag with many of the supporting characters feeling thinly drawn.
  • While you always see the emotional journey that Patel’s Kid is on, you don’t always feel in the way one would hope for.

Monkey Man had its World Premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film & TV Festival. It will be released in theaters in the U.S. on April 5. Click below for showtimes.