Tag Archives: Chuck Russell

Movie Review: Junglee (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon

Junglee is exactly the movie it’s supposed to be: a fun action flick with a clear environmental message, great practical effects, and elephants. Lots of elephants.

Bollywood’s premier martial artist Vidyut Jammwal stars as Raj, a veterinarian who grew up on an elephant sanctuary run by his parents. As a young man, Raj ran away to the city, blaming his father for his mother’s death from cancer. Only on the tenth anniversary of his mother’s death does Raj finally return to the sanctuary.

Things have changed since Raj left. The remote jungle region is struggling economically, according to Raj’s friend Dev (Akshay Oberoi), who now works as a forest ranger. Raj’s childhood pal Shankara (Pooja Sawant) is one of the sanctuary’s few remaining mahouts, or elephant caretakers. She’s also grown up to be stunningly beautiful. The only thing that hasn’t changed is Raj’s frosty relationship with his father, Baba (Thalaivasal Vijay).

Too many Bollywood male leads are written as incapable of making mistakes, but Raj is different. He accepts Dev’s admonishment when his friend says that Raj is in no position to criticize the state of the sanctuary after abandoning it. Raj also comes to realize that he was too young to understand his parents’ choices during his mother’s cancer battle, and that realization starts to heal the rift with his father. Raj is willing to admit that he’s wrong and learn from his mistakes.

Economic troubles aren’t the sanctuary’s only problem. Ivory poachers use camera drones to spot Bhola, a bull with impressive tusks. Led by the hunter Keshav (Atul Kulkarni, who has a touch of Quint from Jaws in his performance), the poachers launch a nighttime raid, with elephants and humans among the casualties.

Raj sets out to find the culprits, aided by Shankara, Dev, and Meera (Asha Bhat) — a plucky reporter from the city visiting the sanctuary to interview Baba. This chase sets the stage for some of Jammwal’s signature stunt-work, which is as thrilling to watch as always. Raj fights with whatever items he has on hand, turning a ladder or a table and chairs into weapons with high novelty value. Shankara and Meera add comic relief, in the form of a love triangle which Raj doesn’t seem keen to participate in.

The highlight of Junglee is unquestionably its elephants, real-life residents at a conservation center in Thailand where much of the film was shot. Director Chuck Russell spoke with Scroll.in (interview linked below) about the numerous precautions the crew took to ensure the safety and comfort of the elephants while still shooting as many scenes with them as possible. The resulting footage is impressive — a refreshing throwback to the days before computer-generated imagery became the default cost-cutting option for film producers. It’s very cool to watch the cast interact with the elephants, and it makes the whole film a treat for the kid in all of us.

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Opening March 29: Junglee and Notebook

Two new Hindi films hit Chicago area theaters on March 29, 2019. Martial artist Vidyut Jammwal plays a veterinarian fighting elephant poachers in the action movie Junglee, directed by American filmmaker Chuck Russell, who previously directed Dwayne Johnson in The Scorpion King and Jim Carrey in The Mask.

Junglee opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 55 min.

Also new this weekend is the Salman Khan Films production Notebook, starring newcomers Pranutan Bahl and Zaheer Iqbal.

Notebook opens Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 52 min.

Opening in wide release across Chicagoland this weekend is Hotel Mumbai, an English-language fictional retelling of the 26/11 terror attacks starring Dev Patel, Anupam Kher, and Armie Hammer. It sounds problematic.

Kesari carries over at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, AMC Niles 12 in Niles, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Badla gets a fourth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville.

MovieMax holds over Luka Chuppi, the South Barrington carries over Total Dhamaal, and the Woodridge 18 hangs on to Gully Boy.

Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters (all films have English subtitles):