Everything we know about Dev Patel’s ‘Monkey Man’

Actor Dev Patel's directorial debut is being lauded by critics and comes with some shocking BTS stories.

A career breakthrough with the cult TV show Skins, an Oscar nom for his role in Lion, and a stint in the directing chair that’s earned him 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Though the fruits of the actor-to-director pipeline are often disappointing, Dev Patel seems to be shaking things up with Monkey Man, a film that’s already been compared to John Wick — the good ones in the franchise, at least. Monkey Man, which follows an anonymous fighter (Patel) who decides to get revenge on the corrupt leaders behind his mother’s death, premiered at the controversial South by Southwest festival last night. It received a standing ovation from the audience, and a video has since made the rounds of Patel crying on stage in response. Also starring in Monkey Man is Sharlto Copley (yes, the “prawn” guy from District 9), Bollywood favourite Pitobash, and former Miss India winner Sobhita Dhulipala.

Why is Monkey Man, so far, proving so popular with critics? Not least because Patel is purportedly a bonafide presence behind the camera as well as in front of it — The Guardian said that Patel “has a gift for highly kinetic, brutally violent fight sequences” – but because of Get Out director Jordan Peele, who helped rescue the film from movie limbo after the pandemic. Speaking after the SXSW screening, Patel described how Peele, by joining with his production company Monkey Paw, “brushed the dust off, put it back on the mantelpiece and gave us this opportunity”.

When introducing Patel to the stage, Peele also described how he’d “never seen someone pour his heart, soul, body, mind and energy into a story more than [Patel]”. The Slumdog Millionaire actor then reeled off the roster of injuries he accumulated during the production of Monkey Man: a torn shoulder, and a broken foot and hand, the latter resulting in a wrap that can be seen in the film at several points. He even described getting an an eye infection from a scene where the actor crawled across a bathroom floor. Patel went method.

While Monkey Man hasn’t pleased everyoneThe Hollywood Reporter called it “ambitious” but ultimately “uneven” – when the film drops on the 5th of April, we reckon it will find a legion of fans by offering up a more politically engaged answer to mind-numbing action flicks. More than that, it can never be as bad as other films made by actors who gave directing a go. Who could forget Ryan Gosling’s 2014 efforts Lost River, or Charlie Day’s more recent Fool’s Paradise. Day’s stint behind the camera was arguably that bit worse as he preceded the release of the film with a very presumptuous trip to the Criterion cupboard. Dream big, I guess.

WriterAmber Rawlings
Banner Image CreditMonkey Man / Bron Studios