Monkey Man! Refreshing approach to the Revenge Action Genre

By Rosa Parra

Monkey Man” premiered last month at SXSW Film Festival to an overwhelming critically acclaimed reception that it quickly became one of my most anticipated films of 2024. “Monkey Man” is co-written, produced, directed and stars Academy Award nominee Dev Patel. It follows Kid (Patel) as he seeks to avenge the death of his mother by attempting to single-handedly take on the elite and those responsible for the continuous oppression of the poor class. 

Opening with the story of Hanuman, a legend synonymous with strength and courage, we’re introduced to a young Kid and his mother. A lovely and nurturing mother-and-son relationship that is cut short, thanks to the police, who were ordered to commit atrocities against these people. We are then brought to adult Kid fighting underground to earn cash and learn about specific people of interest. As the film progresses, the audience is presented with layers of historical situations leading to the present. 

Firstly, I must pay my respects to Patel’s directorial skills. It’s impressive that this is his directorial debut because he directed the hell out of this movie. His vision is stylistic and a refreshing one. I’m still in awe of specific shots, but it’s the point of view that stayed with me. We follow Kid through this journey as the camera serves as a third-person lens. Still, it effortlessly transitions into a first-person POV where the audience gets an additional visceral experience to the narration. I’ve never been in an in-ring fight before, but I feel like I had after this viewing. 

This is a refreshing approach to the revenge action genre with a great story driven by creative action sequences and kills. Patel knows how to direct an action movie. The car and foot chases feel palpable, and even though I’ve seen many action movies with lots of kills, this movie still managed to surprise me. Patel is an action star in the titular role. Doing all his stunts and having the onscreen magnetic presence, this movie is evidence of the versatility of Patel. 

The story is one we’ve seen before but the cultural background blended with the religious one makes it stand out. Highlighting the socioeconomic disparities that are heavily influenced by religious leaders is the backbone of the movie. It doesn’t shy away from tackling corruption and discrimination, and even gives an unexpected platform to the trans community. I say unexpected because of the way it was beautifully handled since it was associated with a deity (who is half woman and half man). It felt organic.   

The score and soundtrack add a cathartic feel, while the editing aids in the perfect pace. Some experimental aspects were initially questionable but they ultimately work. The visuals very much resemble a B-action-level film, with the occasional homage to John Wick.  

I know it’s still early in the year, but one thing I know for certain is that this movie will be one of my favorite films of this year. 

Overall, “Monkey Man” is a triumphant directorial debut and a refreshing entry into the revenge action genre. Patel shines both in front of and behind the camera. It will linger in the mind for days after seeing it. 

4.5/5

Film Critic, Rosa Parra, also contributes to The Daily Chela and Rotten Tomatoes. You can also follow her on X.

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