Patel’s directorial debut “Monkey Man” is an action-packed revenge flick

By Riley Dauber

Lifestyle Editor

Actor Dev Patel is known for many film roles, including 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire” and 2016’s “Lion,” the latter of which earned him his first Academy Award nomination.

Now he is making his way to the director’s chair with his debut film “Monkey Man,” which came out April 5.

Originally set for a Netflix release, “Monkey Man” was picked up and produced by Jordan Peele through his company Monkeypaw Productions, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film belongs on the big screen due to its dark and moody lighting and high-stakes action sequences.

“Monkey Man” follows Kid (Dev Patel), who is dead-set on finding the man who killed his mother. At the start of the film, he is a down-on-his-luck fighter who dons a monkey mask.

Unsatisfied with the lack of money he makes purposefully losing fights, Kid finds a job at a high-end club and brothel. He then rises up in the ranks to get closer to the man responsible for his childhood trauma.

Viewers may have seen this revenge story before, but Patel is able to rejuvenate the trope with topical conversations on genocide, stolen land, and violence against marginalized groups.

According to the Associated Press, “The real-world metaphors and Hindu contexts…add to the film’s potency but aren’t always smoothly incorporated.”

Despite this being his first time in the director’s chair, Patel proves that he has the ability to create engaging and visually-pleasing movies. Arguably, Patel has lacked the proper platform in Hollywood to show off his talent and dedication, so seeing him have the opportunity to create his own projects feels earned.

The lighting, cinematography, and action sequences are some of the best components of the film. When Kid is working at the club, the indoor and outdoor scenes are lit in blue and purple to reflect the bright lights of the city. Toward the end of the film, when Kid finally comes face to face with his mother’s killer, he is lit in dark red to reflect his anger.

While the action sequences start slow, with Kid losing most of the fights in the ring, he becomes a confident and skilled fighter. He trains with a group of women outside the city, and in one memorable scene, he hits a punching bag to the beat of the drums.

The final few action scenes are the film’s true bright spot. From the restaurant to the elevator and even the bathroom, Kid proves his worth and just how far he will go to find his mother’s killer. One specific throat stab is gruesome yet inspired, and may leave viewers gasping.

“There were action scripts that came in, but I was always offered the sidekick, or the tech guy, or whatever. I knew I had so much more to offer,” Patel said in an interview with Men’s Health.

Despite its positive aspects, the film still feels like it is missing something. Patel delivers a great performance, but his character lacks a personality other than the fact that he seeks revenge.

Viewers know little about him — including his real name — other than the flashbacks utilized throughout the film. These scenes are shot and edited well, yet do not provide any connection to his character.

The story is also a little tired. Revenge is a universal theme, but with so many films addressing it, it can be difficult to see what new aspects “Monkey Man” brings to the table.

Thanks to the film’s successful elements, however, many cinephiles are hoping Patel will return to directing.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Patel said, “There were some incredible people that pushed me into this director’s seat, and once there, I didn’t look back. It was by any means necessary I was going to birth this dream so I really love it, and I would love to do it again if I was so lucky.”

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Caption: Patel has maintained a successful acting career since his youth, but in “Monkey Man,” he proves he not only has the directing chops, but also the action hero fighting skills.

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