'Monkey Man' review: A South Asian John Wick 2
The action in Dev Patel’s 'Monkey Man' is intense and thrilling. Universal Pictures International

'Monkey Man' review: A South Asian John Wick

Dev Patel poured in all sorts of fight scenes using all sorts of implements to keep the adrenaline levels of the audience up.
Fred Hawson | May 17 2024

The Kid (Dev Patel) wore a monkey mask when he fought in an underground fight club called Tiger's Temple, in the city of Yatara in India. The owner Tiger (Sharlto Copley) ordered Kid to always fight to lose, in order to favor the house. One day, he applied to work as a server in a high-class brothel called Kings run by Queenie Kapoor (Ashwini Kalsekar). He became friends with Queenie's henchman Alfonso (Pitobash) so he could get a promotion.  

The Kid had a major axe to grind against spiritual guru-turned-politician Baba Shakti (Makarand Deshpande) and his police chief Rana Singh (Sikandar Kher). These two powerful men were responsible for destroying the Kid's village and murdering his mother Neela (Adithi Kalkunte) when he was just a young boy. When he was given access into the VIP floor, the Kid can finally set his long-gestating plan for revenge into motion.

This new film was very much in the vein of "John Wick" -- an action movie that told the story of an ordinary man who was pushed to live a life of revenge because a loved one gets killed. However, director, co-writer and star Dev Patel made sure his directorial debut would stand out from the rest of its ilk by having an all-Indian cast and integrating Indian culture and mythology into its story, production and costume designs.

Patel has certainly matured since we first saw him as a bright-eyed 18-year old TV quiz show contestant in "Slumdog Millionaire" (Danny Boyle, 2008). He has since earned an Oscar-nomination for Supporting Actor in "Lion" (Garth Davis, 2016), and have lately starred in some avant garde projects like "The Personal History of David Copperfield" (Armando Iannucci, 2019) and "Green Knight" (David Lowery, 2021).

Patel poured in all sorts of fight scenes using all sorts of implements to keep the adrenaline levels of the audience up. The camera was very close to the action it can be dizzying for some. You can see the blood splattering, hear the bones crunching, smell the sweaty bodies and feel the extreme pain. All this brutality, yet due to some illogical and inconsistent execution of  the action, it did not match the levels set by Chad Stahelski or Park Chan-wook. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."