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Dev Patel’s Full of Rage and Revenge in ‘Monkey Man’

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After a while, all action films begin to feel the same: car chases, hand-to-hand combat, and lots of blood. For many films in this genre, it’s style over substance, with cool action sequences that take precedence over well-written storylines and impeccable acting. This has been one of my biggest complaints about action films for years. I appreciate movies that can balance incredible action and a cohesive story, creating something enjoyable to watch for everyone. This is precisely what Dev Patel’s looking to do with his new action film Monkey Man, which just arrived in theaters.

Serving as director and actor, Patel brings to life a thrilling and moving story about protecting those who can’t protect themselves, in a broken society. Fueled by his journey of revenge and a rage that just won’t quit, Patel’s character in Monkey Man stands for the underdogs in every sense of the word. Protector of those who can’t stand for themselves, his character begins more personal, before it builds to his greater purpose that inspires a nation to push past the chains that hold them down. This journey is amazing to watch across the two-hour run time, making Monkey Man something exceptional for fans of action films.

[Warning: spoilers from Monkey Man are below!]

A personal journey becomes so much more in Monkey Man

When the audience first joins up with Bobby (Patel), it’s unclear what his true motivation is. There’s definitely a drive that pushes him to pursue a job under the ruthless Queenie Kapoor (Ashwini Kalsekar), who runs a luxury brothel in India. Initially, it feels like this drive derives from a desire to become something more than just a ring fighter who sports a scary monkey mask. Surely getting beat up consistently by those twice your size can’t be fun, however when we’re stuck in a broken society, we have to do whatever we need to do to survive.

The idea of the intrinsic value of wanting to do more to escape the rung of the societal ladder drops quickly, as it becomes apparent early on in Monkey Man what Bobby’s true motivation is. He doesn’t want to escape his rank in India’s society, he wants revenge. Revenge against those who ruined his life at such an early age. As a young child, Bobby watched Rana Singh (Sikandar Kher), the husband of brothel owner Queen, brutally beat and murder his mother, before setting his house, and village, on fire.

Dev Patel in Monkey Man
Dev Patel as Bobby in Monkey Man (Universal Studios)

Bobby’s entire life was destroyed from an early age in a most brutal and tragic way, leaving him an orphan, but with a new purpose that fuels him into adulthood. From that point on, he sets his mind on doing whatever it takes to end up in the same place as Rana and attempt to take his life.

It’s this revenge plot that pushes forth the entire film, even when Bobby’s purpose expands to a symbol of hope to all oppressed. His personal vendetta mixes with the altruistic values of changing the direction of a nation, propelling India towards a new direction for the voiceless.

And yet, at his core, he’s still motivated to get revenge for the death of his mother and the people he grew up around. His loss is crushing, and the grief turns into rage, a rage that refuses to go away until he gets an eye for an eye. Whether or not Bobby gets his revenge is best left to experience in the film. Monkey Man brings a plethora of jaw-dropping action sequences as our protagonist progresses through his journey of retribution.

Positives and negatives of Dev Patel’s directorial debut

Monkey Man gave me similar vibes to John Wick, in which the film balanced the story with the action, not choosing one over the other. While the action in Monkey Man is highly engaging and visually stunning, it’s nothing without the emotional journey of Bobby from a young child to a vengeful adult. Without the backstory to explain his drive, Bobby’s actions are just senseless. 

While I still can’t condone the actions that he does take, as violence and revenge is never the answer, the story provided by writers Dev Patel, Paul Angunawela, and John Collee does bring a bit of rationale. Because of this, viewers can empathize with Bobby’s struggle through his grief, with even some being able to understand the feeling of wanting revenge for such a loss. Patel, Angunawela, and Collee did a wonderful job creating a grounded story that people can easily relate to, making Monkey Man something exceptional instead of just another basic film. 

Monkey Man
Image from Monkey Man (Universal Studios)

I also love that even when Monkey Man attempts to veer off into the mystic and supernatural, with Bobby appearing to embody the Monkey Man from the fables his mother told him as a boy, it always comes back to his personal journey to get what he feels is owed. This helps to make Bobby feel more human, as not all our stories end up being ones of personal growth. Instead, there are times that we become so stuck in our grief and anger, that only one solution seems to be the way forward. Monkey Man embraces the darker side of the very human experience, which was delightful to see. 

This film also does an outstanding job of representation, with minorities of all types being seen or discussed, as the idea of oppression in India is explored throughout the entire film. Pieced together through news reports and such, these minorities and the atrocities that are happening to them at the hands of the corrupt government are discussed at length, adding another level of representation and reality to the film. This felt very intentional at the hands of the director and writers, which some something that I was excited to see play out on screen.

While every shot and story felt important, the movie itself felt rather long. Some moments could have been cut for the sake of time and my bladder, which wouldn’t have impacted the overall story or narrative that Patel was attempting to provide. I think the movie would have been even better with just a bit more concise of a story, cutting away about 15 or 20 minutes.

Final thoughts on Monkey Man

Overall, Monkey Man was a thrilling ride from start to finish. Dev Patel created an excellent film that explores the darker nature of the human experience. Most people have experienced thoughts of revenge, and maybe have even developed plans in their head. However, Patel takes this universal thought and brings it to reality on screen. The audience gets to see those passive thoughts in front of them, with all the gory details splashed across their field of vision.

Monkey Man is not an easy watch in the slightest, but the story is something remarkable, and the visuals are breathtaking, from the action shots to the use of color, and even the angles of the camera. I would say those who love action films and aren’t afraid of a little… err… a lot of blood, should check out Monkey Man while it’s in theaters.

Monkey Man is currently in theaters. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan on seeing this film!

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 379 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson