From Oldboy to I Saw the Devil, these Korean movies are the inspiration behind new action thriller Monkey Man

Dev Patel in Monkey Man
(Image credit: Universal Studios)

Dev Patel has not gone easy on himself with his directorial debut, Monkey Man. The film - which he directs, co-wrote, and stars in - is based on his own original story idea. Set in India, the film sees Patel thrown into a brutal, breathless world of near non-stop action, as his protagonist, ‘Kid’, seeks revenge against the corrupt powers that destroyed his childhood.

Given the intensity of the stunt work and fight choreography, it’s the kind of undertaking that would feel like an immense challenge as an actor *or* a director, let alone for someone pulling double duty on their debut as a filmmaker. Speaking to the Inside Total Film podcast and GamesRadar+, Patel jokingly puts it down to a “masochistic streak” on his part, driven as he was for a different kind of representation as an actor, and taking matters into his own (bloodied, bruised) hands.

The John Wick franchise has been a frequent comparison point, and it’s easy to understand on a superficial level given that it concerns a sharply suited hero meting out violent justice against an army of people, in pursuit of vengeance for something that was taken from him. But Patel’s main inspirations come from a bit further afield.

Dev Patel in Monkey Man

(Image credit: Universal Studios)

“The main comparison right now is John Wick, and I’m a huge fan of Chad [Stahelski, director] as an individual, and as a filmmaker, and the franchise," says Patel. "But, you know, the OG guys – the brooding men wearing the suits, and doing that amazing action – were the Korean auteurs. Everything from Oldboy to The Man From Nowhere, to A Bittersweet Life to I Saw The Devil.

“These Korean films, not only do they have the most violent, gory moments, and action that you’ve seen, but, also, they have a lot of emotion and pathos to them. You know, they’re not afraid to double - or triple-down on these kind of emotional beats, and lingering looks of love or longing or whatever. For me, I really like that. There’s deep, social context in these films, and I wanted to try and do that in my way, anyway.”

He also says that he wanted to fill the screen with “my culture, my history, my ancestry… I’m kind of a product of two worlds. I was born and raised in the UK. So, I just wanted to create a film that is kind of representative of what I want the future of the genre to look like.”

Monkey Man opens in UK and US theaters on 5 April. For more from Dev Patel and producer Jordan Peele, check out the upcoming episode of the Inside Total Film podcast that drops later this week.

Matt Maytum
Editor, Total Film

I'm the Editor at Total Film magazine, overseeing the running of the mag, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.