‘Monkey Man’ Review: Visually Stunning, But Hollow

Dev Patel’s directorial debut wastes the richness of the Indian mythology it draws from. But we can’t stop watching.

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Dev Patel and Pitobash in 'Monkey Man' (2024)

Snigdha Sur


April 5, 2024


9 min

“Yeh kahani Hanumanji ki tumne suni hai?” Have you heard the story of Hanuman? a mother asks her child. She tells the young boy the tale of the hungry monkey king, who saw a big, juicy, shiny mango in the skies. He flew toward it and ate it, only for the world to plunge into darkness. He had eaten the sun, not a mango. The gods, to punish such arrogance, took away his powers. “Phir kya hua mamma?” the boy asks. What happened next?

Actor Dev Patel’s directorial debut, Monkey Man (for which he also co-wrote the screenplay and acts in), opens with Hindi dialogue, takes place in India (though he shot it in Indonesia, home to Bali, another name for Hanuman), and is rooted in the Hindu epics. The premise is simple: a young boy who grows up to avenge his mother must overcome corrupt police, a profit-hungry yogi, and other deplorables. There’s innovative cinematography, pulsating Indo-Western music, punchy transitions, and masterful fight scenes. Yet, despite all the right ingredients, you’ll walk away feeling as if something is missing.

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