Reviews are in for the Charlie Hunnam-led boxing film, Jungleland. Several critics got an early peek at Jungleland during the Toronto International Film Festival, and they came away impressed overall. The boxing film that focuses on "toxic masculinity" and a relationship between two brothers has a 78% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes. There were a few critics that criticized the "cliche moments" in Max Winkler's film, but the majority still praised the story and the acting.
Hunnam plays Stanley while Jack O'Connell plays his brother, Lion. The plot puts the two brothers on a road trip from Massachusetts to the West Coast for two reasons. They have to deliver Jessica Barden's character, Sky, to someone in Reno before heading to San Francisco for a high-stakes boxing tournament. The journey is difficult as outside influences threaten to tear the brothers apart, creating an experience that critics mostly enjoy. The boxing drama debuts on premium VOD and becomes available for digital purchase on Nov. 10.
Roxana Hadadi wrote a review for Pajiba comparing Jungleland to Mark Wahlberg's The Fighter. The writer praised Hunnam's ability to portray the entirely mediocre Stanley as opposed to his standard "too cool" characters from Triple Frontier or Sons of Anarchy. Hadadi explained that Jungleland isn't a very original project, but the movie provides an enjoyable viewing experience.
As Hadadi wrote: "Jungleland succeeds by tracing how people scrape together a life in the margins, how you accumulate debt and miss out on opportunities, how one f—up can lead to another f—up can lead to an endless stream of f—ups. This all feels a bit like an Elmore Leonard story rather than a 'sports movie,' honestly—small-town gangsters and underground crime syndicates, final dollars spent on diner coffee, the allure and impossibility of California. Not much of Jungleland is wholly original, but the execution is good enough that you’ll relish the familiarity of the narrative instead of resenting it."prevnext
In a review for Digital Journal, Sarah Gopaul discusses how love is "a tricky emotion." The reviewer uses the analogies of family members or athletes on a sports team to get the point across. As Gopaul explains, Jungleland is not actually a road trip or sports movie despite heavily involving both aspects. Instead, the film focuses more on the conflict between two brothers and how they should "spend a little time apart."
As Gopaul writes in her review, "Lion feels like he owes Stanley because he cared for him when no one else was around. But that debt has come at a heavy price to Lion, both physically and emotionally. As much as he tries not to think about it, he’s well aware his brother destroyed his career and continues to be the reason they’re always on the run. Conversely, Stanley chooses to see himself as the reason they’ve stayed afloat all these years as barely getting by is still getting by.prevnext
Both Hunnam and writer Max Winkler have previously discussed how Jungleland addresses "toxic masculinity" and flips the theme on its head. According to Danielle Solzman of Solzy At The Movies, the theme does play a significant role in the characters' relationships. However, Solzman also writes that Jungleland is more about the American Dream and wishful thinking.
"Through its themes, the film is a throwback to the 1970s," Solzman writes in the review. "These are characters that easily have appeared in films from that era. It’s still very much a film for this day and age. Stanley and Lion just want to live out the American Dream at the end of the day."prevnext
Erratic Yet Rewarding
David Nusair was positive overall when writing a review of Jungleland for Reel Film, albeit while pointing out some early issues with the film.The writer said that the first half of the Hunnam-led drama has an emphasis on "overly familiar" character types. The writer specificially pointed out Hunnam's fast-talking hustler archetype.
"It’s clear, then, that the picture benefits from the consistently captivating performances by its two leads, with the strength of Hunnam and O’Connell’s work here paving the way for a midsection that grows increasingly engrossing and absorbing," Nusair writes about Jungleland. The reviewer then explains that the boxing film is an "erratic yet completely rewarding drama" and calls it better than it has any right to be.prevnext
While Jungleland received positive reviews overall, there were some writers that had mixed emotions about the film. Jason Bailey of The Playlist, in particular called Jungleland " a confidently crafted, well-acted three-hander." However, he also said that the viewers' enjoyment will depend entirely on "how many times you can watch its protagonists f— up."
"They’re roughneck guys, perpetually down on their luck; the story begins with them already in the hole, desperately trying to pull themselves out. But the mistakes they make are repetitive and frustrating enough to make for an exhausting viewing experience; your mileage with this one should roughly correspond with your patience," Bailey continued to explain. The reviewer ultimately gave Jungleland a B-minus.prevnext
Hunnam's Character Work
Brian Tallerico of Roger Ebert writes in his review that Jungleland is a film that embraces melodrama and cliche. The characters, in particular, "are out of casting 101." However, Tallerico still praises the former Sons of Anarchy star in Hunnam for his character work. Additionally, the reviewer points out the interesting parallels between Lion and Sky in that they are used for their bodies, albeit in very different ways.
"While that thematic parallel simmers under the surface, this is mostly a performance piece, particularly for Hunnam, who almost seems to be deconstructing his typically suave demeanor with something more twitchy and impulsive," Tallerico writes. "It’s fascinating work. And even when the film doesn’t feel like it’s amounting to much, he keeps it humming."prevnext
A Compelling Piece of Storytelling0comments
A common theme throughout reviews for Jungleland is that the Hunnam-led project is less of a sports story and more of a relationship drama. Wendy Ide of Screen Daily shares this sentiment while explaining that Hunnam's character "can be overbearing at times" when compared to Barden's Sky. However, Ide praises the dingy locations and the storyline.
As Ide writes in the review, Jungleland may not break out commercially due to its similarities to Warrior and The Fighter. However, the reviewer explains that certain key elements could make the film stand out. "Perhaps central to any marketing effort is the fact that rather than a boxing movie in which drama plays out in a ring, the most satisfying element here is the examination of the complex relationship between two damaged young men."prev