For the past few years, Lionsgate has dominated the stylish, hyper-choreographed, bullet-hole-ridden action-thriller genre with a steady stream of John Wick movies as well as a spinoff series. But the first trailer for Universal and Blumhouse’s Monkey Man from director Dev Patel makes it seem like a glorious challenge to viewers to understand how much bigger, wilder, and more visually inspired these kinds of movies can be.
Set on the streets of modern-day Mumbai, Monkey Man tells the story of a man named Kid (Patel), an ex-con whose return to society is a brutal reminder of how India’s caste system keeps poor, vulnerable people trapped in cycles of violence and systemic poverty. Kid has fond memories of an idyllic childhood being raised by his loving mother (Sobhita Dhulipala), who amazed him with stories about Hanuman. But as an adult, Kid’s life is defined by the drudgery of working as an underpaid waiter and the fear of existing in a society where sociopathic elites are free to skirt the law with ease.
In the criminals that terrorize his city, Kid can see shades of the same kinds of villainous figures featured in the myths he loved as a child. And in Monkey Man’s trailer, you can see how the Hanuman legend inspires Kid to become both a masked cage fighter and a John Wick-ian man in black who sets out to kill as many criminals as he possibly can. It’s hard to tell from the trailer exactly how unique Monkey Man’s story — co-written by Patel, Paul Angunawela, and John Collee — will feel compared to other films that tackle similar ideas.
But both the film’s cinematography and its fight sequences seem like they’e going to be absolutely mesmerizing, and as surprising as this kind of turn for Patel might feel, it also might be one of the things that makes Monkey Man a hit when it debuts on April 5th.