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‘Monkey Man’: Dev Patel’s Directorial Debut Is Bloody & Brilliant

Blood, sweat and tears - Dev Patel takes no prisoners in this visceral journey into the depths of vengeance and urban decay.

Dev Patel in Monkey Man

In Partnership with Universal Pictures

At Variety, we call “Monkey Man” “a grandiose anomaly — a movie that seesaws, and not all that smoothly, between hellbent battle and slumdog fable.” As one of this year’s most exciting movie releases, Dev Patel’s directorial debut not only marks a significant milestone in his career but also serves as a testament to his commanding presence on screen.

Set in the gritty underbelly of Yatana, a city reminiscent of Mumbai, “Monkey Man” immerses viewers in a world where vengeance and violence reign supreme. While it’s hard not to draw comparisons to other iconic revenge movies such as “John Wick”, Patel adds a touch of grim realism while crafting a revenge saga that is as visceral as it is politically charged.

“Monkey Man” doesn’t shy away from confronting India’s societal issues, weaving in commentary on corruption, oppression, and the stark divide between the rich and the poor.

At its core, though, the movie is a hero’s journey – one riddled with gut-wrenching brutality – with Patel’s protagonist, only referred to as ‘Kid’, navigating a treacherous landscape in pursuit of justice.

In the words of Variety critic Owen Glieberman, “[Kid] doesn’t always throttle his adversaries — there are moments when he gets throttled — and the action is staged in realistic settings with dingy lurid lighting and a hand-held existential flavour. At times, it’s as if we’re watching Scorsese’s “Mean Streets” played in fast motion.”

The narrative is steeped in Indian mythology, particularly the tale of a courageous monkey god known as Lord Hanuman, who overcomes adversity to emerge stronger than ever. And you better believe Patel cleverly mimics this mythological framework to chart Kid’s own transformative path, from his traumatic past –with flashbacks to his childhood village and the brutal murder of his mother – to his ultimate quest for retribution.


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Initially slated for release on Netflix, “Monkey Man” caught the attention of Jordan Peele, who found it so brilliant he believed it warranted a theatrical release, swiftly joining the project as producer. It is no surprise then that critics are also recognising the film’s bold and audacious nature, which has left audiences on the edge of their seats.

At the Sydney premiere on April 2nd, guest’s immediate reactions echoed the movie’s electrifying energy. Variety captured their immediate impressions in a series of one-word reviews, from “frenetic” to “surprising,” “hectic,” to “incredible”. Some were simply left speechless.

Check out more of our premiere coverage on Variety’s Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts channels for a glimpse into the excitement.

“Monkey Man” hits Australian cinemas on April 4th.