‘Monkey Man’ SXSW 2024 Review: Dev Patel Delivers One Vicious, Entertaining Ride

Monkey Man Dev Patel

Monkey Man had a lot of hype to live up to. Not only is it Dev Patel’s first time directing a feature, but the film also saw him try his hand as an action star. To make things even more nerve-wracking, it has Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions behind it, and that company has a streak of impressive films that have led us to expect quality. Luckily, it surpasses expectations and is possibly the most fun you’ll have in theaters this year.

Monkey Man follows Kid (Dev Patel), who fights in an underground nightclub wearing a gorilla mask. He takes his beatings and collects his cash as he is haunted by childhood trauma that’s on the brink of boiling over. His untapped anger is the vehicle that drives this movie and when it’s unleashed, it’s magnificent.

One of the many things I love about this movie is the catharsis. How often do we get to beat the shit out of the things or people that scarred us as children? We see Kid’s physical scars on his hands, and we get a glimpse of the emotional scars as he throws those hands at the people on his shitlist. Even before we know what sparked his thirst for revenge we are on his side and rooting for him.

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Kid is not a typical action hero. He has no quips and doesn’t make time for romance. He is on a single mission driven by rage. We project coolness and likability onto him because we have all had a crush on Patel since we were children. However, all we know about this character is that he is good at violence. That, and he’s a problem solver when it comes to taking care of his enemies. 

This thrillingly vicious tale is inspired by the legend of Hanuman, an icon embodying strength and courage. Before the screening, Patel took to the stage to thank everyone and explain what it meant to him to see Bruce Lee as a kid. He then lovingly told us about his favorite Bollywood and Korean films and how they inspired Monkey Man. 

While even the most casual filmgoer can probably spot a few Enter The Dragon and Oldboy references, those of us who have seen a few Bollywood movies will also pick up on a couple of things we would associate with the genre. However, Patel takes all of this and makes it a completely new and exciting experience. Where most filmmakers get stuck almost imitating the movies that inspired them, Dev has filtered it all through his very specific filter and pushed information forward for new audiences. 

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Monkey Man moves differently than most films. There are moments during violent fights where the POV shifts and the camera is in the center of the action. Not only does the camera capture the frenetic energy of the violence but it also places the audience right in the middle of the melee. There was a beautiful shot where a punch knocked a camera back into the action. There were so many cool moments where we were looking into the fisticuffs through the eyes of Kid. The reason the camera work is unmatched is that they hired a camera guy with a stunt background. Patel describes the fights as a threesome instead of a duet because the camera was in the battle, under armpits, and taking hits along with our protagonist. This same energy carries over into the adrenaline-filled chase scenes, each a delight to watch.

It was amazing to see Patel nerd out about the movies that inspired this passion project and talk about what it meant for him to see Bruce Lee kicking ass on film. I hope he’s aware of how many other Brown kids will be inspired by what he’s done here. I fully expect to hear upcoming filmmakers cite this movie as lovingly as he cited his inspirations. It’s hopefully a step in getting away from action movies starring the typical white male movie stars—Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, to name a few—that I’m tired of hearing about.

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Representation not only matters but is crucial to keeping cinema exciting. I love how many people in the audience behind me were Googling Hanuman during the talkback. I love that this movie avoided all of the silly pitfalls and markers that make most action films feel like a chore. This was pure unleashed rage and violence with a character ready to fuck up the caste system and take down some evil guys who abused their power.

Monkey Man is the type of movie you get when you stop interrupting Brown people. It is filled with humor, heart, and hurt. It revitalizes a subgenre that was beginning to feel too predictable. While the John Wick comparisons are coming, this is vastly different and much darker. Many of the horror movies we’ve seen come out this year so far haven’t dared get this gruesome and bloody. 

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Dev Patel came up with the story, co-wrote the screenplay, directed, and stars as the main character Kid. This labor of love was also hindered when COVID-19 halted production in early 2020. However, that seemingly just led to the team getting more creative. One scene had to be shot on Dev’s phone, but it fits so well that it seemed like the best choice for the moment. He also talked about how he would film coverage for his scene partners while in the scene as an actor. 

This movie is a moment, and I imagine all theaters will be as vocal about the action as the one at SXSW was. While we all expected Patel’s feature directorial debut to be good, I doubt most of us expected it to raise the bar for vicious action thrillers and give us so many new inventive kills. 

Monkey Man hits theaters on April 5, 2024.

Were you lucky enough to catch Monkey Man at SXSW? Then let me know if you loved it as much as I did at @misssharai.

  • Monkey Man


Dev Patel has made a very daring, bloody, and exciting debut as a filmmaker. This movie is the unexpected violent, vicious, and cathartic ride we did not know we needed.



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