Welcome to the Jungle
No matter the cost
Go. Going. Gone.
God bless the hood
We all fall down
Jungle is one of those arthouse projects that’s going to be very divisively received. With a subheading like “a crime drama like nothing you’ve seen before”, Jungle sets lofty expectations for itself right off the bat, and does itself a disservice by doing so.
Jungle is the classic case of style of substance, with the show trying way too hard with its visuals and rapping rather than actually telling a compelling and interesting story. Sure, the fourth wall breaks are nice and the neon-lit vistas are great to look at but when you compare this to the gritty feel of something like Kidulthood or Top Boy, this one pales by comparison.
In a way, it’s almost like the creators for this project, Junior Okoli and Chas Appeti, wanted to craft a rap-version of Euphoria, with all the heady visuals and commentary on a pocket of society. Instead of that being Gen Z though, this one hones in on the streets of London. Only, it’s not really the UK in a conventional state.
Jungle is set in a near-future London, during an unspecified time where skyscrapers are lit up with neon advertisements. It’s basically like Blade Runner 2077 but there’s a profound lack of worldbuilding to actually make this interesting to explore. There are a couple of nice moments in a diner, with Marcus and Bianca picking items off a holographic menu, but mostly there’s very little world to explore. Instead, it feels like an excuse to throw in as many neon lights as possible, and given the rap music video feel to this, it’s hardly surprising.
The story itself is essentially sliced in half, with the first 3 episodes following one character before whiplashing across and following a completely different player. The first 3 focus on a man called Gogo, who tries to change his life for the better by getting mixed up in one last daring robbery with his partner, Slim. Unfortunately, things go awry when the security guard there is murdered in cold blood. With the guard’s gang lusting for blood, led by his brother 6ix, Gogo tries to escape the inevitable.
The second half then switches things up and focuses on a character called Marcus, who also wants to try and start a new life and be a better role model for his brother, Danial. He has a shady past which catches up to him late on, exacerbated by the fact he falls for the beautiful and talented Bianca.
This story isn’t as strong as the first, but then both stories suffer from an artistic vision that feels torn between wowing its audience and actually telling a good story. Unlike Top Boy, which had numerous twists and turns along the way, Jungle is way more interested in the flashy visuals and interesting cinematography.
Given the creators have no experience with TV shows before, and their own credits come from music videos, it’s perhaps unsurprising to find so many bouts of rapping that feel ripped right from a grimy rap video. Honestly, go and watch the music video for something like High Road by Frisko and then watch one of these bouts of rapping in Jungle, you’d be hard-pressed to see the difference.
Although the ideas are admirable and Amazon should be commended for allowing such an artistic project to go ahead on their platform, Jungle is very rough around the edges. It’s a polarizing series with some good parts but plenty of flaws too. Originality can only get you so far, and in an effort to reinvent the wheel, Jungle does so in a rather rough and subjective way.
Verdict - 5/10