Bullet Points: Jungleground
To the layperson the acting career of Roddy Piper began and ended with 1988’s They Live. But for those of us in the know, Roddy Piper’s acting career spanned three decades including guest spots on television series like Silk Stalkings, The Outer Limits, RoboCop and Walker, Texas Ranger and dozens of movie roles.
For those who are unfamiliar with Piper’s movie work beyond They Live and want to delve deeper into Piper’s filmography, a great starting point would be the subject of this edition of Bullet Points, 1995’s Jungleground…
- Welcome to the Jungle: Roddy Piper plays police detective Lt. Jake Cornell. Cornell and his small team of undercover cops are the only members of law enforcement who dare to go into the roughest part of town nicknamed Jungleground. Jungleground is ruled by a street gang known as the Ragnorockers. As our movie begins we see a narcotics delivery on Jungleground turf end in explosive and deadly fashion thanks to members of the Ragnorockers gang. At this point it is unclear if the Ragnorockers have taken a page out of Paul Kersey’s book from Death Wish 4 and doing whatever it takes to keep those damn drugs out of their neighborhood or if they have other motives for wanting to crackdown on the drugs coming into their domain.
- Jungle Love: Before we see Jake Cornell in action we get a peek into his life away from the job. Jake is preparing to pop the question to his aspiring artist girlfriend Sammy (Torri Higginson of Stargate Atlantis fame). Meanwhile Sammy is preparing for her first art exhibition later that evening. The exhibition gives us the opportunity for Jake Cornell to do a little verbal sparring with a snooty gallery owner named Louis after Louis disrespects Cornell about his background and his chosen profession. Needing to cool off after the exchange Jake and Sammy step outside… this is it, the perfect time for Jake to get down on his knee and ask for Sammy’s hand in marriage… but that is when a federal agent shows up demanding to see Jake. The fed needs Jake and his team to accompany him to Jungleground immediately where they hope to make a major bust.
- Bungle in the Jungle: Things are a major bust alright… but not in a good way. In typical “the feds screw everything up” fashion, Jake Cornell finds himself the only good guy who survives a shootout between the members of law enforcement and the members of the Ragnorockers gang at a bus station located in the heart of Jungleground. Jake then finds himself taken captive by the Ragnarockers where he meets the leader of the gang, Odin (JR Bourne in his feature film debut). Odin finds the engagement ring and invitation to Sammy’s exhibit in Jake’s pocket and it inspires him to play a most dangerous game with Jake. Odin throws down the gauntlet, if Jake can make it out of Jungleground and back to Sammy before dawn, the two can live happily ever after… if he can’t Jake will die and Odin will have Sammy killed too. Odin then hand picks a group of his best Ragnorockers including his war chief Dragon (Peter Williams) and Diesel, the man who wants to be war chief, to hunt Jake down and make sure he does not make it out of Jungleground alive.
- Jungle Boogie: The action really starts moving and grooving at this point, as Jake is running for his life in the unfriendly territory that is Jungleground. Jake will need to use both brains and brawn to survive and fortunately for Jake he has both, plus he has all the motivation in the world with the life of the woman he loves hanging in the balance. Jake gets some unsuspected help from Posie a young streetwalker who is looking to get out of Jungleground too as she helps him navigate his way through the concrete jungle. In between dodging bullets, brawling and some vehicular mayhem, Jake learns that Odin was never planning on ridding Jungleground of drugs, but instead he wanted to be the one controlling the racket in that part of town and he was using the gang members to eliminate his competition… something even Odin’s war chief Dragon was unaware of! That revelation is what tips the scales for the forces of good and allows our hero to make it back to his lady love.
Taking elements from The Most Dangerous Game and Escape from New York and playing to the natural strengths of Roddy Piper (who appeared to be in better physical condition in this movie than he ever did when he was in the ring) made Jungleground one of Piper’s better direct to video efforts.
Piper’s supporting cast also deserves credit for making Jungleground an enjoyable movie experience. The Sammy character was a tough chick through and through and was a perfect match for Jake and as a viewer you want to see them have their happily ever after moment… Odin was a quality villain and I couldn’t help but feel like he was inspired a bit by Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys... Dragon had the most interesting character arc of all the characters in the movie, which really made Dragon stand out.
Now before you can say you survived this Jungleground movie review, you have to check out these Bonus Bullet Points…
- If You Ever: …wanted to see Roddy Piper get shot with a squirt gun that looks like an Uzi, then this is the movie for you.
- Familiar Face: Nicholas Campbell plays federal agent Robert Neilson. Fans of Canadian television series may remember Campbell from his time as Dominic Da Vinci on Da Vinci’s Inquest and its short lived spinoff Da Vinci’s City Hall.
- Job Experience: Some of Piper’s previous work experience as a professional wrestler came in handy during Jungleground, like when Jake is being pelted by garbage being thrown at him by the Ragnarockers at his “trial” or when Piper’s Jake delivered a clothesline to one dude and suplexed another guy on top of a car!
- The Weinstein Method: While Jake was imprisoned by Odin, the snobby Louis pays Sammy another visit at her place and tries to use his power and influence as a means of getting into Sammy’s pants. Sammy turns his ass down flat and as he is leaving in a huff he is shot dead by the twin assassins Odin has sent to watch Sammy until Odin’s game with Jake is over. That’s some poetic justice right there.
- That’s No Way To Talk About Toronto: As Cornell and Neilson are driving into the Jungleground area, Neilson calls it a “toilet” and mentions that they should “bulldoze this place to the ground”. Jungleground was shot entirely in Toronto, Ontario.