Jungle – a new futuristic music drama from Amazon – tries too hard to be groundbreaking and, despite some positives, leaves much to be desired.
Set in a futuristic, allegedly cyberpunk-infused London, Jungle is a crime drama that follows the intertwined lives of characters trapped in a concrete metropolis – who step out to reflect, with dialogue that breaks the fourth wall. An ever-present narrator of the story relays the themes, such as the propensity for crime by inner-city youth.
Such environments breed danger, encourage violence, and create mentalities they can’t unsubscribe to before it’s too late. We get it. The narrator highlights that these stories aren’t just tales but are accurate and reflective of people we know. I agree with this notion, yet in telling us, it breaches that golden rule of art: show, don’t tell.
We begin by following Gogo (Ezra Elliot), a timid criminal running on empty luck, and Slim (RA), the epitome of a gangster. Gogo wants away from a life of crime, while Slim lives and breathes it. Both must decide how to proceed as their investment in each other’s lives clash. Their relationship ropes in other characters, like Mia Mors, played by a great IAMDDB, and 6ix, played by a vested M24 – who both add something to the show but are hardly given any help beyond the situations they find themselves in.
It’s a truly unique type of show, but one that aims to be a jack of all trades without entirely fulfilling one. I don’t think it’s an interesting enough story; it doesn’t seem to care for character development, and things looking good can only take one so far. Through compiling so many creative ideas and techniques, it ultimately loses its way by lacking one stylistic preference or concentration. Quite simply, I became lost in this Jungle.
Nor did I get a grand sense of the futurism, either – if not through projected blue screens cast on any building big enough to act like a skyscraper in the distance. Why make this a staple part of the world if you had no intention of using it? I thought the futurism applied to such a setting would be the most captivating part – instead, it was the use of music. The rampant delivery of drill, which spills into dialogue seamlessly at times, becomes an incredibly coherent articulatory device.
The likes of RA, M24, and Unknown T and their delivery thrilled me, regardless of how short-lived. At least for fans of such music, there’s something to salvage. Jungle’s soundtrack is probably its saving grace, as I believe fans who love the work of these can endure the whirlwind of the show. I also recognise the backgrounds these characters hail from, the reality of it all.
However, recognising communities stricken by poverty, disenfranchisement by the state, and a cycle perpetuated by a flawed system, there’s so much Jungle doesn’t explore regarding these characters and their environments.
Fans of such crime dramas, born from such communities, may put this in a similar category to Shiro’s Story or Blue Story, as their director Rapman brought life to such a subgenre of this filmmaking. Jungle is entirely its own thing, though. Some moments provide a spectacle, with luscious and sullen tones in the cinematography.
I expect any story to compose a view of its world and setting, inviting its audience to be attached to its main characters. However, I found Jungle to be quite braggadocious – an “if you know, you know” type – expecting its audience not to dive too deeply into the world and understand why its characters exist in such a manner through random dialogues over scenes far removed from the storyline. At times, I found it hard to connect the points they were trying to make. And this is frustrating, for the bare bones of the idea have legs which I would have liked to see run.
Instead, I feel the compilation of different styles – from anime-type techniques to Tarantino tropes and the cinematography styled like a music video, short film, or documentary – alongside the sudden breaks of the wall, was far too overwhelming for me to enjoy this show.
However, to highlight some positives, I think Jaykae, M24, IAMDDB and Poundz are standout actors. They are immersed in these roles and have something to foster their on-screen roles.
I also valued how it is an intergenerational series, calling upon the likes of RA, a terrific old-school rapper from the Roadside G’s collective; Jaykae, an incredible grime MC from Birmingham; and prominent drill rappers with the likes of M24, Bandokay, Unknown T, and even a generation below them with Poundz and Teezandos. I appreciate the spread of characters and the vision of Jungle from a writer’s.
However, it leaves much to be desired and falls into an exceptionally super experimental watch category.
Jungle is out now via Amazon Prime.