Movie Review: Jungleland
Boxing films have been a relatively common occurrence these past few years. Not just the revival of the Rocky franchise with its strong spin-off, Creed, but from the very top of Hollywood, trickling down into small independent features, boxing has formed a core narrative for many a filmmaker. Journeyman, The Fighter, Warrior, and now this, Jungleland. From director Max Winkler, we receive a story of two brothers, boxing their way through a series of unfortunate events to try and settle a few debts. The strain of this pressure is just enough to add some drama into the mix, and how financial difficulties can apply a horrible strain on any relationship, no matter how close the two may be.
Relying heavily on Jack O’Connell and Charlie Hunnam’s strong leading roles, Jungleland is relatively solid. There are some rather brutal moments, Winkler seems to be in a rush to set up the horrors of two blue-collar guys who are down on their luck. He throws rough dealings, fractured narratives, and brothers at odds into the mix almost immediately. A fair amount of the drama between these two men comes from the introduction of Sky (Jessica Barden), and their various feelings towards this third party. Animosity, friendship, and everything you’d expect comes into the fray. None of it is tackled strongly, but an amicable approach to these subjects is far better than the average filler from this year.
There’s something rather captivating about the way Jungleland captures the muted settings its characters suffer through. Hunnam plays a sleazebag, O’Connell presents us with a fractured boxer trying to recapture his glory days. It’s a good mixture, but feels rather typical of this genre. I’m not expecting high society boxing, but if you’re going to have blue-collar fighters, then something beyond the few cliché draws of such a class should be provided. It has a couple ham-fisted moments thrown in to make sure we as an audience get to grips with the class system at play here, and it comes across as a little underwhelming. There’s drama here that doesn’t work or click with the scenes around it, a product of too many strands not tying themselves together.
It becomes rather clear that Jungleland is less about the boxing and more interested in fleshing out the drama at its core. A sad shame, considering the drama isn’t all that beneficial, nor is the backdrop of a failing boxer illuminated in a way that we can consider interesting. Winkler presents the odd bit of interest, our characters racing against not just a clock, but dwindling resources as they try and pool together one last chance at redemption. Toying with its narrative strands and taking action too late, Jungleland is a rather underwhelming piece considering the talent involved, but there are pockets of greatness, it’s just a shame they lead us nowhere.