Dev Patel in Monkey Man.

‘Monkey Man’ Is a Reinvention of Action Movies With the Perfect Lead in Dev Patel

Trying to make a genre feel new and exciting isn’t easy. We’ve seen countless films tackle action as a concept, but Dev Patel really struck gold with his film Monkey Man and showed us all the powerhouse that he has become as a filmmaker.

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So much of this story comes from the mind of Dev Patel. He stars in the film, directed it, and also co-wrote it with Paul Angunawela and John Collee. But despite it having all the makings of a typical revenge flick, Monkey Man elevates the genre in unexpected ways, especially in terms of how Kid (Patel) comes to terms with what he must do to avenge his mother.

Throughout the movie, we watch as a young boy is told stories of Hanuman, a Hindu god who is half-human and half-monkey. The young boy is told these stories by his mother, who is murdered, and it quickly becomes a movie about this young man finding his own sense of justice for her. That can, often, feel very “been there, done that,” but the way that Patel, Angunawela, and Collee have mixed in the action sequences with Patel’s own charm as a performer leaves you on the edge of your seat with each new scene.

Mixed between his time as a fighter (where he takes on a monkey as his persona) and his new job working as a server in an elite establishment, what makes Kid a character we want to win is, as always, completely down to our love and appreciation for Patel as a performer. This character could have easily been that “rough them up” type, but instead, he has a heart and a drive that we can connect to as the audience.

A visually stunning debut for Dev Patel

Dev Patel standing in a red hallway in a black silhouette
(Universal Pictures)

Patel has been around. If you weren’t a fan of his on Skins, then you probably saw him in Slumdog Millionaire or Lion or any number of films throughout the years. But seeing what he can do not only in front of the screen but behind the lens in a film like Monkey Man really has me excited for the future. Patel’s use of color and scenery within Monkey Man lends itself to some of the coolest fight sequences.

There is a kitchen fight, which uses the utensils to its advantage. There is the red light, with Kid silhouetted in darkness that had me gasping in the theater. There is even a moment when he is fighting a man who has an axe and he decidedly does not have one, and it’s hard to not cheer and yell for Kid the entire time.

That kind of passion exists because Patel knows how to captivate an audience both onscreen and now, as we can see, behind the camera, as well. It would be easy to make this your next John Wick obsession and make it all about a simple revenge story, but Monkey Man has elevated the idea of what a story like this should be.

Patel kept me on the edge of my seat and made me excited for whatever story he wanted to tell because Monkey Man has easily become one of my favorite movies of the last few years.

(featured image: Universal Pictures)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.