The Big Screen

Dev Patel’s ‘Monkey Man’: A Primal Punch Of Raw Revenge Saga

Despite Its bound-to-face struggle for release in the Indian market, Dev Patel’s directional debut action-thriller ‘Monkey Man’ won’t lose the anticipation and excitement it has created.

By Akash Sarkar

7st April, 2024

“The rich don’t see us as people. To them, we’re animals” states Kid, the central character of Dev Patel’s revenge drama Monkey Man, and this is pretty much the context of the film. The story progresses with Kid, haunted by recurring images of a painful past, hell-bent on revenge against a powerful religious and political figure and corrupted authorities – seeking justice for what they did to his village in the past.

One thing that becomes more than clear is its similarities with the iconic John Wick franchise, which probably is one of the primary driving forces for its anticipation among the audience, along with the uniqueness of a blended Indian backdrop with Western action sensibility.

But up to the point where we’re chomping on gruesome close-up fighting scenes and peachy-keen editing just as how an action flick should be, it feels entertaining until we’re distracted by unqualifiedly premeditated religious interference.

These persisting religious hick-ups occurring from time to time, it seems, are trying to set Monkey Man a little apart from what a typical revenge flick is supposed to be and not so surprisingly at the cost of gaining a disinterested audience for what they have come to witness.

Snippet from Monkey Man trailer 2
Image: Monkey Man Trailer

The Genesis of a Genre-Bending Epic

“I’m a huge fan of the action genre. I wanted to kind of do an ode to my love of that cinema, mixed with the Bollywood that I was exposed to as a kid,” he said.(REUTERS)

In the labyrinth of modern cinema, where genres blend and stories intertwine, emerges ‘Monkey Man’, a film that defies the conventional boundaries of action thrillers.

Directed by the multifaceted Dev Patel, this cinematic venture is a tapestry woven with threads of vengeance, faith, and a stark social commentary, set against the vibrant yet tumultuous backdrop of an India that oscillates between tradition and modernity.

Kid in his ape mask in a fighting ring
Image: Monkey Man trailer

The Plot: A Symphony of Rage and Retribution

At the heart of ‘Monkey Man’ is the protagonist, known only as Kid, portrayed with visceral intensity by Patel himself. Kid’s journey is one of brutal poetry, a dance of destruction choreographed in the grimy underbelly of a fictional city Yatana that mirrors Mumbai’s chaos and charm.

The narrative pulsates with the rhythm of a revenge saga, reminiscent of the cult classic ‘John Wick’, yet it carves its own niche with a distinct Indian soul.

Patel’s directorial lens captures this raw essence of street-level combat, merging the kinetic energy of Western action sensibilities with the spiritual gravitas of Indian mythology.

The film’s fight sequences are a brutal ballet, where each blow carries the weight of the protagonist’s haunted past and his relentless pursuit of justice. It’s a narrative that’s both barbaric and beautiful, much like the monkey mask that becomes Kid’s alter ego.

Snippet of a fighting scene from Monkey Man trailer
Image: Monkey Man trailer

Monkey Man's resemblance to the iconic John Wick

In the cinematic landscape, “Monkey Man” emerges as a narrative kin to the “John Wick” series, both pulsating with the heart of vengeance and the rhythm of relentless pursuit. Yet, as we traverse the contours of each saga, there are visible distinctions as well.

Both “Monkey Man” and “John Wick” are symphonies of retribution, their protagonists waltzing through a gauntlet of adversaries with a singular, unwavering focus.

The choreography of combat is a spectacle to behold, a maelstrom of meticulously orchestrated action that captivates and exhilarates. The heroes of these tales are avatars of resilience, etching their paths in the annals of cinematic lore with every adversary they dispatch.

Yet, as we delve deeper, “Monkey Man” diverges, charting a course that sails the seas of cultural richness and religious resonance. Where “John Wick” is a tale spun from the threads of a Western tapestry, “Monkey Man” is imbued with the hues of Hindu mythology, its narrative arc bending towards the divine.

The protagonist’s odyssey is not just a physical conquest but a spiritual pilgrimage, seeking solace in the shadows of Hanuman’s legacy.

Moreover, “Monkey Man” is a crucible where Indian ethos and Western action meld in a unique alchemy. This fusion crafts a narrative that is as much a reflection of societal undercurrents as it is a tableau of thrilling escapades.

It’s a tale that resonates with the global pulse while dancing to the rhythm of its Indian heart, a narrative fresco painted with the brushstrokes of a world both ancient and contemporary.

In essence, “Monkey Man” stands as a testament to the power of storytelling that transcends boundaries, a cinematic phoenix rising with wings clad in the vibrant feathers of Indian culture, yet soaring through the universal skies of action cinema.

It is this harmonious dissonance that sets it apart, a beacon for those who seek the thrill of action married to the depth of cultural narrative.

A snippet of Sobhita Dhulipala from Monkey Man trailer
Image: Monkey Man trailer

And what about Sobhita Dhulipala?

Apart from Patel, Sobhita Dhulipala, in her portrayal within “Monkey Man,” emerges as a paragon of audacity, her performance is a testament to the unbridled spirit of her craft.

Transitioning seamlessly from the Indian silver screen to the global stage, Dhulipala brings a fierce tenacity to her role, embodying the complexities of her character with a deft poise that is both rare and riveting.

Her boldness transcends the mere portrayal of strength; it is an intricate dance of vulnerability and power. Dhulipala’s character, a call girl, is not just a figure navigating the underbelly of society but a beacon of layered humanity, her narrative arc painted with brushstrokes of resilience and depth.

In the crucible of “Monkey Man,” Dhulipala’s performance stands as a clarion call to the nuanced representation of women in cinema. Her character’s journey, replete with trials and tribulations, is a mosaic of the human condition, each piece a reflection of her indomitable will.

Thus, Sobhita Dhulipala’s boldness in “Monkey Man” is not merely a facet of her character; it is the embodiment of a narrative revolution, a portrayal that challenges conventions and heralds a new era of storytelling where strength is drawn from the wellspring of authenticity and audacious grace.

Kid from Monkey Man passing by a wall filled with Hindu religious paintings, specifically a painting of Lord Hanuman.
Image: Monkey Man trailer

From Vision to Reality Amidst Controversy

“I was so fascinated by this Indian mythology my grandfather used to tell me as a child and I wanted to give it some social context, ground it in something plausible and real and relevant to today’s world. The film’s a sort of a Trojan Horse, so to speak.”(AP)

‘Monkey Man’s inception is as intriguing as its plot. Patel’s passion project, born from a blend of rage and reverence, took shape over six arduous years. Inspired by the legend of Hanuman, the film is a testament to the power of faith and the resilience of the underdog.

However, its religious undertones have stirred the waters of controversy, casting a shadow over its release in India.

The film’s portrayal of Hindu mythology, intended to be a source of strength and inspiration, has ironically become a crucible for criticism.

The religious aspect, meant to elevate the narrative, has instead entangled it in a web of censorship in India, much to the courtesy of the current government and the lingering elections, delaying its Indian premiere and sparking debates about creative freedom and cultural sensitivity.


As ‘Monkey Man’ stands at the precipice of global acclaim and local scrutiny, the question arises: should one delve into this maelstrom of action and allegory? The film is a mosaic of intense thrills and a profound message, a rare concoction that marries the adrenaline of ‘Mission Impossible with the depth of a cultural odyssey.

In conclusion, ‘Monkey Man’ is not just a film; it’s a mirror reflecting the dualities of faith and fury, a canvas where East meets West in a spectacular clash. It’s a cinematic journey that promises to leave its mark, not just on the psyche but on the soul.

So, if you’re yearning for an experience that transcends the ordinary, let ‘Monkey Man’ be your guide through the shadows of vengeance and the light of redemption.


The film follows the story of Kid, who seeks vengeance against
the corrupt leaders responsible for his mother’s death and the exploitation of the poor.

Dev Patel directed the film.

The main cast includes Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash
Tripathy, Sikandar Kher, Aditi Kalkunte and Sobhita Dhulipala.

It’s an action-thriller.

The film’s runtime is 121 minutes.

It premiered on March 11, 2024, at SXSW and was released in the
United States and Canada on April 5, 2024.

The film has an IMDb rating of 7.4/10.

Themes include greed, fight for justice, and the power of
one person against systemic corruption.

The film is rated R for strong bloody violence, language, and
adult themes. So, yeah, probably not.

‘Monkey Man’ is available for viewing in theaters and will likely
be released on streaming platforms after its theatrical run.

“Monkey Man” is a Hollywood action thriller film co-produced and directed by Dev Patel in his directorial debut. It is set in the Indian context and background, exploring corruption of those in charge and the hypocrisy of religious figures. 

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