Poised as a showcase for John Leguizamo’s resourceful and often daring thesping, “King of the Jungle” is as good as Leguizamo can take it playing a mentally impaired young man on Gotham’s Upper West Side. After thriving as a character study, pic is finally grounded as the plot mechanics take over and melodrama comes rumbling in. Co-produced by Hans Zimmer’s Media Ventures music and sound design outfit (and featuring an undistinguished score by Media Ventures regular Harry Gregson-Williams), Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s extremely uneven sophomore feature following his “A Brother’s Kiss” is brimming with high-profile casting but still faces an uncertain commercial future.
Interesting but underdeveloped character of Mona (Julie Carmen) takes care of her adult son, Seymour (Leguizamo), who has the mental capacity of a pre-teen, organizes anti-police-brutality protests in her neighborhood and lives with lesbian lover Joanne (Rosie Perez). Jack (Cliff Gorman), Mona’s aging hipster poet ex, can’t accept Seymour as he is, convincing himself that he’s conning everybody. Story’s spurts of violence are designed to tear Seymour’s world apart , but Rosenfeld’s scripting and directing choices tend to lessen impact of a potentially gut-wrenching urban tale.