Director: Spike Lee Run Time: 132 min. Format: 35mm Rating: R Release Year: 1991
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Annabella Sciorra, Ossie Davis, Spike Lee, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, Lonette McKee, Anthony Quinn
Famously unavailable to watch or rent on any streaming service, JUNGLE FEVER in many ways feels like a cousin to DO THE RIGHT THING. In this film, Spike Lee brings us to Harlem and Bensonhurst to further explore the fraught relationship between Black folks and Italian Americans in New York City. This time, Spike dives head first into this racial tension through an affair between a married Black man named Flipper (played by Wesley Snipes) and a new secretary at his workplace named Angie (played Annabella Sciorra)…who’s Italian. As you can imagine, things get very messy, very quickly. Spike continues to impress with his fine tuned specificity of dialogue spoken by the Italian American characters, and he makes a strong and subtle statement by casting the cops who murder Radio Raheem as the same cops who accost Wesley Snipes during the climax of this film.
Add in an incredible subplot featuring Oscar nom. worthy performances from Samuel L. Jackson, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis, John Turturro playing the opposite of Pino from DO THE RIGHT THING, and an iconic soundtrack of original songs written and performed by Stevie Wonder, and you get the brilliance that is JUNGLE FEVER.
Be prepared for long discussions with your friends about the controversial ending of this one.