Jungleland

Bonds between brothers. Phew! Strong stuff. Something that has been examined in film many times. This story was just begging to be made into a film with all its levels of dysfunction.

The American Dream. Many people chase it, but few attain it. That low success rate does not stop people from trying. Two brothers are trying that though in very different ways and with widely divergent goals. The brains behind the operation is older brother Stanley (Charlie Hunnam – from television’s Sons of Anarchy). Stanley has a plan to make them rich. This is where younger brother Walter (Jack O’Connell – Unbroken, ’71) or the brawn comes in.

Walter is a fighter. A rather good one. Stanley has him competing in the underground world of bare knuckle boxing. It is obvious that despite Stanley’s aspirations and Walter’s talent that things have not been going so well. That is obvious in the fact that they are homeless. The two live in an abandoned building while working during the day at a factory. Not exactly the high life.

This goes a ways towards explaining Stanley’s desperation and the fact that he owes money to a crime boss. When he is unable to pay him back that is when things really begin to come apart at the seams.

Instead of killing Stanley, Pepper (Jonathan Majors – White Boy Rick, The Last Black Man in San Francisco) figures out a way for Stanley to pay him back. He orders him to transport a young woman named Sky (Jessica Barden – The Lobster, Far From the Maddening Crowd) across the country where they are going to take part in a big money fighting tournament.

All this and the lies Stanley has been telling his brother begin to tear the two apart. Soon though the two will be in a fight for their very lives.

The film premiered at TIFF and is now out for people around the world to see. A simple story which is risen above mediocrity by the performances by the two lead actors. The chemistry is so strong between O’Connell and Hunnam that you never doubt them as brothers. Brothers who love each other. Brothers who would, in the end, sacrifice all for the other.

Love of family is a rather universal story. The bond between the two also draws you in to the film. Despite Stanley’s shadiness you want things to work out. Mostly because Walter is so pure of heart…but then the ending shows how devoted Stanley is to him.

Another theme running throughout the film is the damage which poverty has on humans. Poverty limits choices. Poverty drives people to make bad decisions. Poverty forces good people to do bad things in the name of survival. That really should not be the case in a country as wealthy as the United States. There has to be a better way.

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