Friday, March 27, 2015

Jungleground (1995)

Vice police Lieutenant Jake Cornell (Roddy Piper) takes part in an undercover operation in the part of his city that is so bad, people call it “Jungleground”. The operation goes very bad indeed, Jake’s colleagues are killed, and Jake finds himself the object of the tender mercies of the leader of a local gang who has been killing off drug dealers as well as his colleagues left and right, the Ragna Rockers.

While parts of his multi-racial gang think they are indeed drug dealer murdering vigilantes (that’d be the Punisher Rockers, guys), their leader Odin (JR Bourne), as he’s not surprisingly called, is actually planning to just put the whole local drug business in better hands, namely his own. Still, he enjoys a good little sadist game, so instead of just killing Jake, he goes all most dangerous game on him, setting our hero loose unarmed and underdressed in Jungleground, and putting a team lead by one Dragon (Peter Williams) on his trail. As an added incentive, Odin has put two of his men on Jake’s girlfriend, sculptor and surprise woman of action Sammy Woods (Torri Higginson). If Jake doesn’t reach her, and the safe part of down, before sunrise, she’s going to die.

I am sure, a Most Dangerous Game/The Warriors variant with a bit of ye olde “white man caught in the ghetto” added to the mix is exactly what the Canadian youth was clamouring after – though, I suspect they did that rather a few years before director Don Allan finally made these dreams finally come true in the glorious year of 1995.

Snark aside, for what it is, Jungleground is a perfectly entertaining film, crafted reasonably well as it is, and starring the always agreeable “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the main ass-kicking role as it does. Because it’s a Canadian film, it also gives the object of Roddy’s rescue aspirations a bit more agency and personality than usual in direct-to-video action fodder, delighting its audience (well, me) with a really fun scene where she laughs a gallery owner with casting couch aspirations out of her studio, and a MacGyver style interlude concerning an escape attempt from the baddies, which might not sound like much – or sensible – but does give Higginson’s Sammy about three times as much personality as is typical of these kinds of roles. I also couldn’t help but notice that the film’s evil gang isn’t just multi-racial but also practicing gender equality outside of its leading circle, and because I’m all about absurd essentialist explanations today, that’s now officially part of Jungleground’s Canadian-ness too.

Apart from that, the film consists of a series of decent action scenes taking place in crummy sets and on dark, crummy streets, some scenery chewing by Bourne, Piper doing Piper as well as he always does, and from time to time a bit of enjoyable nonsense. Of the last, I particularly liked the delectable way in which the Ragna Rockers (at least gang name of the month) execute one of their own, namely by driving a car through the window of their warehouse headquarters (of course called Valhalla), throwing a plate-o’-spikes onto the car’s roof, and then throwing their intended victim onto that now spiked roof. It’s certainly a thing. If there’s something I really dislike about this comparatively pleasant little movie, then it’s the fact that it doesn’t have too many elements quite as silly as that scene. Add another comment on the film’s supposed Canadianness here, if you like.

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