Monkey Man Review

Dev Patel’s Monkey Man is an impressive debut for Dev Patel as both a director and action star.

Last Updated on April 9, 2024

Monkey Man

PLOT: A young man (Dev Patel) who makes his living fighting in underground fights in Mumbai hatches a violent plot designed to avenge the rape and murder of his mother.

REVIEW: Calling Dev Patel’s Monkey Man “John Wick in Mumbai” is simplistic. While it’s a nice one-liner the studio can use in its trailers, Monkey Man is an altogether different kind of action flick. Much lower budget than any of the Wick films and less polished (by design), this has more in common with seventies revenge thrillers, albeit given a bruising, martial arts-driven makeover. It’s an impressive debut for Patel both as a director and burgeoning action hero.

Indeed, Patel’s action-hero makeover is one of the most impressive in recent years. Sporting a lean physique and serious martial arts prowess (he’s apparently been training since he was a kid), Monkey Man is the kind of movie that changes a career and makes Hollywood sit up and take notice. With many older action heroes hanging up their guns, it’s time for a younger generation to move in, and Patel seems like the heir apparent to many of these guys.

Monkey Man really is a solid action flick and is pretty scrappy and well-realized, considering Patel has never directed before. It’s ultra-violent, with the film eschewing the gunplay of something like John Wick (which is name-checked) in favor of fists, kicks and blades. While it’s not wall-to-wall action, when the carnage kicks in, it’s truly impressive, with a long, fifteen-minute segment from the middle of the film featuring an aborted stab (pun intended) at revenge and Patel’s flight from the cops, a particular highlight.

Monkey Man review

Patel’s intensity is cranked up to eleven here. He stars as the unnamed “Kid,” who’s a young man whose family was wiped out by the cops, who in turn, were strong-arm men for politicians wanting the land his family lived on. Monkey Man hasn’t been able to secure a release in India yet, with original distributors Netflix allegedly dropping the film after they realized its 1% vs the corrupt ruling class subject matter wouldn’t go over well. Their loss is Universal Pictures’ gain, as even if the movie isn’t a huge hit in theatres, it’s the kind of slick action movie that becomes a perennial once it hits home media and streaming.

You really invest in Kid’s quest for vengeance with Patel, a driven hero with a touch of vulnerability. Unlike some modern action stars, he has no trouble taking his licks on screen, with him getting bloody and beaten several times in the movie, even if he has an almost inhuman way of taking a licking and keep on ticking.

As a director, Patel aces the action sequences and the seedy vibe of a deeply divided India. The film almost sets a record for the number of F-bombs dropped in the first half of the film, as Kid infiltrates a corrupt high society where the folks in power all pattern themselves off Hollywood gangsters. Patel overdoes the swearing a bit, as the constant cursing becomes almost unintentionally funny, something which could also be said about a sequence or two that are a little on the nose. One of these, which I must admit made me chuckle, is a bit where Kid watches his love interest, Sobhita Dhulipala’s Sita, work as an escort while The Police’s Roxanne plays on the soundtrack. 

However, this indulgence can be forgiven, especially when the action kicks in. Monkey Man runs for about two hours and probably could have lost about ten minutes, but it’s pretty exciting stuff for the most part. The carnage is plentiful, with some especially brutal scenes eliciting “whoa’s” from the (paying) audience I saw this with, including a close-quarters elevator sequence scored by an old Boney M song.

Suffice it to say, if you consider yourself an action fan, you almost have a duty to go out and support Monkey Man. Patel busted his ass making a hardcore action flick, and he needs the audience to show studios that they still care about action movies on the big screen. While it’s not perfect, overall, I had a blast. 

dev patel, monkey man

Monkey Man



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.