A futuristic, cyberpunk-inflected UK inner city plays host to a maze of disparate yet ultimately interlocking series of events in Amazon Prime’s Jungle, a stylistically daring crime/musical drama which marks the mainstream debut of creators Chas Appeti and Junior Okoli.
Episode one introduces us to Gogo (Ezra Elliot), who delivers a monologue reflecting on the trauma inflicted upon him by way of the criminal lifestyle he leads and his desire to escape it, followed by an invitation to the most uninitiated viewer to take a peek into the stylised world Appeti and Okoli have created, and the real one they are reflecting. Almost immediately after, however, we find Gogo in a car with RA’s Slim, driving towards a supposedly routine robbery which inevitably goes pear-shaped, and subsequently traversing the city’s underworld in search of an escape from the consequences of his actions.
The series’ labyrinthine plot is told largely in verse which bookends traditional pieces of dialogue. In this sense, Jungle adopts the familiar shape and flow of a conventional musical. However, the sound of gritty UK flows over dark, brooding drill beats, delivered against a backdrop of neon-washed urban futurism, suggests anything other than convention. The show is a source of style-bending, genre-shuffling intrigue, and certainly wears its influences on its sleeve. Appeti himself cites Blade Runner and Looper as aesthetic influences on the series, while the spectre of John Wick in the show’s hyper-stylised cityscapes and depiction of an intricate network of underworld activity, clearly looms large.
Familiar faces from the world of UK drill and hip hop populate the cast, with the likes of RA, M24 and J fado making appearances alongside the more mainstream appeal of figures such as Tinie Tempah and Big Narstie. It is a blisteringly original, daring and exciting idea, and one which Okoli affirms is a huge event for the culture. The execution is, at times, a little less sure-footed, with morsels of ropey dialogue and some performances perhaps not delivering the assured screen presences you could expect from a full-time actor.
Jungle nevertheless introduces Appeti and Okoli as invigorating and refreshing voices to keep an eye on as their careers take shape.
Jungle is released on Amazon Prime Video on 30th September 2022.
Watch the trailer for Jungle here: