Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Two brothers try to escape their circumstances by travelling across the country for a no-holds barred boxing match that becomes a fight for their lives.
Review: Like my most recent reviewed film, Let Him Go, Jungleland is a movie greatly enhanced by the performances of its lead characters. The plot takes a backseat to the individual lives here and their goals. Goals that feel more like dreams for those who have nothing and no one to fall back on.
Telling the tale of two brothers, Stanley (Charlie Hunnam – The Gentlemen/Sons of Anarchy) and Lion (Jack O’Connell –Unbroken/Starred Up) who squat in abandoned houses and take any jobs they can get to survive. Stan is the street-wise yet foolhardy older brother who has made himself manager of his younger brother Lion, a gifted boxer who wants nothing but to live a peaceful quiet life, but who is constantly forced into danger due to his brother’s choices. When they lose a pivotal match in a street fight, they are forced to transport a young woman called Sky (Jessica Barden – Hanna/The Lobster) to San Fransisco, where they also hope to take part in a title match where they could finally win enough money to build a real future.
The movie is rooted deeply in drama and visually captures the hardships of the homeless and the misplaced people in society. All three characters have zero options and hope can be a dangerous thing. The story itself, though, is not the focus here, but more of a vehicle to shine a light on each character. With less talented folks, this movie would’ve felt like a chore to watch, but our three main leads elevate the material to wonderful heights and keep you deeply invested in their journeys.
Charlie Hunnam proves once again he’s a wonderfully talented actor, given the right material. His portrayal of Stanley is pitch perfect as a man who thinks he’s smarter than he actually is. His charisma is his only talent, but even that isn’t what it used to be, and his hopes and dreams weigh heavily on his younger brother. But there is also love and loyalty to his personality. In a fair world Hunnam would most definitely receive awards and accolades for his work here.
O’Connell is an actor who disappears into every role he plays, to the point where I never really remember his face! I loved him in Starred Up and despised him in Eden Lake. Here, his version of Lion is a brave man with a soft heart and a quiet spirit. He doesn’t want to fight anyone, but he literally has no other choice. The relationship between the two is totally believable as brothers who are both each other’s strength and weakness. Last but most definitely not least is Jessica Barden as Sky. She is a perfect balance of a character you want to hate, yet you understand why she does the things she does. She too has no options in this life, and if she doesn’t use whatever tools she has at her disposal, her fate might be the worst of them all.
Jungleland, like the Bruce Springsteen song it’s named after, is unapologetic with its bleak tones and dramatic nature. Movies such as this have been done before, with a “road trip” structure and the focus on characters not plot. And it’s not going to appeal to all audiences. But it’s wonderful performances and poetic visuals will keep you invested all the way to the end and like these three, you will embrace the message that unfolds, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
For my review of Let Him Go you can click here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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