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MONKEY MAN

If John Wick were Indian he might look a lot like the lead character in Monkey Man but Dev Patel’s acting skills prove to be a much better fit to the project than his unpolished directing and writing skills.



From his first role as a troubled teenager in TV show Skins, through his breakthrough in Slumdog Millionaire and more prestige roles in Lion and David Copperfield, actor Dev Patel has constantly and laudably reinvented himself.


As writer-director of Monkey Man, in which he also stars, he has set himself his biggest challenge so far. But while Patel is pretty good as a man who wants bloody revenge on the people who caused his mother’s death, the film itself lacks focus, originality and, most troubling, energy.


Patel mostly shoots the film in shaky-cam close-ups that quickly make the audience lose any sense of direction. The blows that are dished out in the many fights in Monkey Man also lack a true punch, certainly when compared to the vastly superior stunts the John Wick films delivered.


But while I can forgive Patel for still finding his feet in his first foray behind the camera, I find it harder to tell why exactly he wanted to tell this particular story. After all, the narrative is muddled – at several ill-advised points even trying to incorporate Indian politics – and the characters are without exception all archetypes of the revenge tale.


This drags down the middle half of Monkey Man, which gradually loses forward momentum, and notwithstanding a fun masked fight as the film enters its third act, that energy is never regained.



release: 2024

director: Dev Patel

starring: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Pitobash, Vipin Sharma

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