Monkey Man // A SXSW 2024 Review: Dev Patel is Electric

Dev Patel’s directorial debut, Monkey Man had its world premiere at SXSW. I waited 2.5 hours in line for my seat and it was worth every second! I was gobsmacked. Jordan Peele graced the stage to give Patel the most heartwarming and inspiring introduction. Patel was just as electric on stage as he was on the screen. If you’re going to catch anything in the theater next month, make it Monkey Man. Tickets are on sale NOW!

Expect nothing but the best

An anonymous man (Kid) spends his nights in an underground fighting ring taking beatings for cash until he finds a way to infiltrate the city’s corrupt elite and seek revenge for his childhood trauma. Inspired by the legend of Hanuman, Patel co-wrote the screenplay along with John Collee and Paul Angunawela. He also leads this stellar cast along with Pitobash, Sikandar Kher, Sharlto Copley, Vipin Sharma, and Sobhita Dhulipala

I find it difficult to keep from sharing every detail I can recall because Monkey Man is incredible from start to finish. I was afraid to look away or blink too long and miss something spectacular. There were these beautiful moments of him as a child with his mother; wonderful memories filled with love interspersed with scenes of the sad lives of some and sinister activities of others. 

We are shown moments of  the harsh lives of the poor and disenfranchised and they’re highlighted against scenes of the rich and corrupt. Patel doesn’t shy away from sharing the struggles, poverty, seedy nightlife, or desperate things people will do to survive. Each character is superb in their role and integral in Kid’s fight for revenge. He isn’t the only one who will fight to live free from violence and poverty. Sharma and Dhulipala were magnificent and I loved that their stories were being told as well. 

Patel’s legs were legging

Cinematically, every scene was gorgeous and larger than life. We were in the ring with the Kid, we were fighting, we were getting bloody, angry, plunging into filthy water, and standing back up after every fall. The setting, the lights, sounds, and music immersed us in every scene. It was beautiful at times, sad, moving, and thrilling the next. 

Monkey Man brings the action; the fights were unreal and it’s easy to see how Patel suffered injuries to his hand,  broke some toes, and saved the makeup team some time by giving himself an eye infection. He looks beat up because he was quite literally beat up.  He had his own Rocky-esque workout montage that was sexy, steamy, and all things great. When he fought, his legs were swinging so divinely and his fists were landing with the heaviest of applause and cheers.

I usually don’t mind when my action lacks plot but there’s no issue here. There’s heart, passion, and unbelievable fighting throughout. To think, it was slated to go straight to streaming until Jordan Peele watched it and acquired it through Monkeypaw Productions, which has a distribution deal with Universal Pictures. I cannot wait to watch it again so that I can find something new to enjoy so I snagged my seats for the early show. It’s in theaters Friday, April 5th.