The greatest art is meant to make you feel. Those feelings can range from laughter, fear, or sadness. The greatest feelings come from witnessing someone pour their heart and soul into their craft and that canvas exhibiting the passion for all to see. Monkey Man is Dev Patel’s passion project, and on Monday night at South By Southwest, the audience left feeling like they had just seen a masterpiece.

Monkey Man is a revenge thriller. Patel writes, directs, produces, and stars in Monkey Man. A film that went through production hell in 2020 and finally made its world premiere in Austin, Texas, for the SXSW festival this week. On the surface it may appear to be a different version of John Wick, like many other movies have attempted of late (Nobody, Atomic Blonde). But, beneath the action and brutal killings is something so much more.

The movie centers on Patel’s character, who has experienced tremendous tragedy navigating his hard life in India as he “only fights to feel pain, ” as one of his mentors in the film says.

Patel, as he introduced the film to a very eager 1,000+ crowd of film fans, said he was influenced by Bruce Lee films growing up and, in addition, John Wick, The Raid films, and Korean cinema.

Those influences are clear in the fight scenes and brutal graphic violence. But Monkey Man stands apart from those in the film’s beauty, voice, and subject matter.

Monkey Man Dev Patel

The passion and attention to detail Patel puts into every frame shows what an immense talent he is. Monkey Man is not just a vehicle for a new action star and a couple of cool kills; it is a platform to explain the injustices going on in a world few understand, and using mythology and his personal childhood, he crafts a story engaging and rich.

The pacing of the film builds and builds to an amazing crescendo. Patel gives us time to know our character, understand his motivations, witness his failures, and hope for his successes. Imagine if John Wick was worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. That is Monkey Man.

His performance is mesmerizing as we lose ourselves in the character as he makes his way through visually beautiful scene after visually beautiful scene. The movie is gorgeous, the use of music is exhilarating, and the fight scenes are thrilling.

Patel after the film discussed how hard it was to make the film. From borders being shut down, to bones being broken, to equipment failing. You would have no idea that this was a man making his first film on a tight budget. The film stands up to the amazing influences he thanked in his intro and once this film is seen by the public it will earn its standing amongst them.

Patel is a talent to behold, and Monkey Man is as impressive a cinematic achievement as we are going to see this year.

Monkey Man
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Nathan is one of HeyUGuys' US correspondents and loves movies. You'll find him at Sundance Film Festival on an annual basis watching and reviewing movies before most others.
monkey-man-reviewBrilliant, brutal and a sign of beautiful things to come. Dev Patel is a talent to behold, and Monkey Man is as impressive a cinematic achievement as we are going to see this year.