Jungleland (Film Review) with Charlie Hunnam & Jack O’Connell

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: A bare-knuckle brawler (Jack O’Connell) and his brother (Charlie Hunnam) eke out a living on the underground fight circuit. When they get into trouble with a gangster, they’re forced to take an unwilling girl (Jessica Bardem) across the country to be delivered to her former lover, an elderly crime lord, while aiming to compete in a massive competition called “Jungleland”.

REVIEW: If there’s any silver lining at all to what’s happening to the movie-business these days, it's that in the absence of big-blockbusters, smaller-scale personal dramas are getting bigger releases than they might have otherwise. If ever there’s been a time to discover movies like JUNGLELAND, this is it.

Coming from Max Winkler, Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell star in this rough-and-tumble thriller, with their relationship having a lot in common with films from the seventies like SCARECROW & MEAN STREETS, both of which seem to be an influence on this. In those movies, usually, one half of the duo is a live wire, while the other is lower-key and dependable. In this one, the fighter, played by O’Connell is the quiet one. While dangerous with his fists, he’s a reluctant brawler, wishing instead he could settle down and open up a dry cleaning business. Hunnam, by contrast, is the schemer, who exploits his brother's talent because he’s sure there’s the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

jungleland film review

The story is somewhat predictable. You know from the start more-or-less how things are going to play out, especially when the boys come face to face with Bardem’s character. She’s essentially their hostage but starts to develop a relationship with O’Connell’s Lion, who we know is a good guy due to the way he lovingly takes care of his beloved greyhound dog, even if he has a huge blindspot when it comes to his brother.

Despite running a quick ninety minutes, Winkler lets the story move at an unhurried pace, allowing us to dig into the burgeoning relationship between Lion and Bardem’s Sky. We do sense that she could be playing him to some extent, but the fact that she’s been badly damaged by her upbringing (shown by a brief sojourn to her bible thumping mom’s house) and current fate is never in doubt.

jungleland film

Hunnam has the juiciest role, but also plays against type to some degree, as here he’s anything but a tough guy. He’s a paper tiger, with his brother the really dangerous one when push comes to shove, brought home by an inevitable violent climax that features a superb cameo by former “Northern Exposure” star John Cullum as the dreaded crime boss, Yates. Jonathan Majors of “Lovecraft Country” also has a small role as a lower-level boss, but it’s a minor part considering his outsized talent. This was shot before he started to break out, with this initially debuting at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

While not a staggering film, JUNGLELAND is nevertheless a really strong character-driven drama and a huge step forward for Winkler as a director. It has a nice, low-key vibe to it, with an evocative score by Lorne Balfe, complete with a rousing Bruce Springsteen song at the climax – but surprisingly the song isn’t “Jungleland”. If you like films like WARRIOR or THE FIGHTER, and especially if you’re a fan of seventies dramas, this is one that’s well worth checking out. Hunnam, O’Connell, and Bardem all deliver standout performances, making this an under-the-radar gem.




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Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.