‘Jungleland’ Review: On the Outside, Looking Down

Steely Dan once famously mocked “show business kids makin’ movies of themselves.” If “Jungleland,” directed by Max Winkler, son of the actor Henry, is any indication, those kids should stick to that pursuit because they don’t have a clue about other people.

The film features two brothers, one a soft-hearted boxer, the other a would-be operator who should have looked out for his sibling. No waterfront figures in this tale by Theodore Bressman and David Branson Smith, with Winkler.

Charlie Hunnam’s Stanley has “managed” the fighting career of his brother Lion (Jack O’Connell) to the extent that Lion is banned from legitimate sport. The two now inhabit a boarded-up house in what looks like a 1980s Springsteen album ghost town.

A loan shark, whom Stanley owes (of course), waves the promise of a big payday at a bare-knuckle match on the other side of the country. The catch: The brothers have to shuttle a surly young woman named Sky (Jessica Barden) to Reno and deliver her to another degenerate criminal.

These three hardscrabble Americans are played by British actors. Their work betrays no condescension, and only a little self-flattery. Hunnam’s characterization is the most experimental, based on the proposition: “What if Channing Tatum, but with a beard?”

During their grittily picaresque road trip, Lion becomes attached to the bumptious Sky, and the brothers start to feel bad about delivering her to certain doom. The sweaty clichés enacted along the way are uniformly tired and ultimately offensive. A love scene near the movie’s finale, Winkler’s vision of sex among the underclass, is a caricature that could comfortably fit in the new “Borat” movie.

Speaking of Springsteen, the movie pulls out his cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” for the movie’s supposed-to-be-searing fight-scene finale. “Come on and open up your heart,” he sings. In any other context one might. Here, the only reasonable response is, “I’m good, thanks.”

Jungleland
Rated R language, violence, sex. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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