dev-patel-in-monkey-man

In ‘Monkey Man,’ liberation comes from communal power

While some may object to the violence in this movie, it is symbolic of the violence that marginalized people are subjected to daily.
Arts & Culture

Monkey Man

Directed by Dev Patel (Universal Pictures, 2024)

Monkey Man, directed by and starring Indian actor Dev Patel, uses its trailer to showcase Patel engaging in fighting scenes akin to John Wick. However, Monkey Man is far more than an action film, offering a social commentary that is valuable for Catholics to reflect on.

The plot reveals the destructive confluence of religion, corruption, and power. A young boy loses his village and his mother in a single evening, both taken at the hands of a policeman doing the bidding of a cult-like Hindu leader. The boy becomes an adult, played by Patel, who plots vengeance against these men.

Patel, famous for his breakthrough role in Slumdog Millionaire, continues to champion the voice of people in poverty, who are largely in their state due to inequity that favors rich and corrupt elements. With Monkey Man, however, he takes a bolder step in centering those who are marginalized. Patel’s character is taken in by a trans community that resides in an abandoned temple.

The protagonist rehabilitates within this community, gaining the mental and physical strength to enact his revenge, and obtains their partnership in executing his plot. Patel’s plan requires the communal efforts of people from different walks of life who were at the bottom of society. This collective power results in a strength that can surpass and even defeat those who profit from wrongdoing.

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For Catholics, these themes correlate with the proclamation from liberation theologians that God sides with the marginalized, and if we wish to be in alignment with God’s will, we must do the same.

While some may object to the violence in this movie, it is symbolic of the violence that marginalized people are subjected to daily. That is the violence that demands our objection.


Monkey Man is now streaming on Peacock.


This article also appears in the July 2024 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 89, No. 7, page 38). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Ewet Akhirwan Nurhaidir/Universal

About the author

Matt Kappadakunnel

Matt Kappadakunnel has a background in investment management and investment banking. He spent multiple years studying to be a Catholic priest and graduated from Creighton University. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

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