|Directed by||Spike Lee|
|Written by||Spike Lee|
|Produced by||Spike Lee|
|Edited by||Sam Pollard|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$43.9 million|
Jungle Fever is a 1991 American romantic drama film written, produced and directed by Spike Lee. The film stars Wesley Snipes, Annabella Sciorra, Lee, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, Lonette McKee, John Turturro, Frank Vincent, Halle Berry (in her film debut), Tim Robbins, Brad Dourif, Queen Latifah, Michael Imperioli, and Anthony Quinn, and is Lee's fifth feature-length film. Jungle Fever explores the beginning and end of an extramarital interracial relationship against the urban backdrop of the streets of New York City in the early 1990s. The film received positive reviews, with particular praise for Samuel L. Jackson's performance.
Successful Harlem architect Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) lives with his wife Drew (Lonette McKee), a buyer at Bloomingdales, and their young daughter, Ming (Veronica Timbers). At work, Flipper discovers that an Italian-American woman named Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra) has been hired as his temp secretary. Initially upset at being the only black person, he relents after being told hiring is based on ability, not race.
Angie lives in Bensonhurst with her abusive father, Mike (Frank Vincent), and her two brothers, Charlie (David Dundara) and Jimmy (Michael Imperioli). Angie's quiet fiancé Paulie runs a corner grocery store and lives with his elderly widowed father, Lou (Anthony Quinn). Meanwhile, Angie feels suffocated at home.
After working several late nights together, Flipper and Angie have sex, beginning a tumultuous relationship. The next day, Flipper demands his superiors, Jerry (Tim Robbins) and Leslie (Brad Dourif), promote him to partner, but he is denied. He resigns, having plans to start his own firm.
Eventually, Flipper admits his infidelity to his longtime friend, Cyrus (Spike Lee), who criticizes him not for his infidelity towards his wife, but for his affair with a white woman. Cyrus refers to his situation as "jungle fever"—an attraction borne of sexualized racial myths rather than love—and Flipper asks Cyrus not to tell anyone. Angie's friends are equally disparaging when she tells them she is having a relationship with a black man.
Drew learns about Flipper's affair through Cyrus' wife, Vera (Veronica Webb) and throws him out of their home. Flipper moves in with his father, Southern Baptist preacher The Good Reverend Purify (Ossie Davis) and mother, Lucinda Purify (Ruby Dee). Later, Mike severely beats Angie after discovering that she is dating a black man and kicks her out of their home.
At Drew's workplace, Flipper attempts to reconcile but Drew kicks him out, feeling he was only attracted to her for being half-white, and that Flipper was searching for a white woman as he was a successful black man. Flipper and Angie move into an apartment in Greenwich Village where they encounter discrimination for being a mixed race couple, such as being insulted by a waitress named LaShawn (Queen Latifah), chastisement from The Good Reverend, and financial issues.
After some play fighting, Flipper gets restrained by two policemen (the same ones who killed Radio Raheem two years prior) who receive a call that he was attacking Angie. The couple's issues are compounded by Flipper's feelings for his family and Angie wanting to have children of her own, causing their split. Echoing what Cyrus told him earlier, Flipper tells Angie their relationship has been based on sexual racial myths and not love, but Angie denies this, telling him she loves him for who, not for what, he is.
Later, Flipper's crack-addicted brother Gator (Samuel L. Jackson) steals and sells Lucinda's TV for crack. Searching all over Harlem, Flipper eventually finds him in a crack house and exasperatedly disowns him.
Soon after, Gator returns to his parents' house to ask for money and, after Lucinda refuses, begins ransacking the home. His erratic behavior ignites an altercation that ends with The Good Reverend proclaiming angrily that his son is "evil and better off dead" before shooting him. Gator collapses and dies in Lucinda's arms as The Good Reverend watches remorsefully.
Meanwhile, Paulie's racist Italian-American friends mock him for having lost his girlfriend to a black man. He asks one of his customers, a friendly black woman named Orin Goode (Tyra Ferrell), out on a date. This angers his father, whom he defiantly ignores. En route to meet Orin, Paulie is assaulted viciously by his other customers for attempting an interracial relationship. Although badly beaten, Paulie still arrives for his date with Orin.
Mike reluctantly allows Angie to return home, and Flipper unsuccessfully tries to mend his relationship with Drew. As Flipper leaves from his apartment, a young crack-addicted prostitute propositions him, and in response, Flipper throws his arms around her and cries out in anguished torment.
- Wesley Snipes as Flipper Purify
- Annabella Sciorra as Angie Tucci
- Spike Lee as Cyrus
- Ossie Davis as The Good Reverend Doctor Purify
- Ruby Dee as Lucinda Purify
- Samuel L. Jackson as "Gator" Purify
- Lonette McKee as Drew Purify
- John Turturro as Paulie Carbone
- Frank Vincent as Mike Tucci
- Anthony Quinn as Lou Carbone
- Halle Berry as Vivian
- Tyra Ferrell as Orin Goode
- Veronica Webb as Vera
- David Dundara as Charlie Tucci
- Michael Imperioli as James Tucci
- Nicholas Turturro as Vinny
- Michael Badalucco as Frankie Botz
- Rick Aiello as Officer Gary Long
- Miguel Sandoval as Officer Mark Ponte
- Debi Mazar as Denise
- Tim Robbins as Jerry
- Brad Dourif as Leslie
- Theresa Randle as Inez
- Queen Latifah as Waitress
- Gina Mastrogiacomo as Louise
- Charlie Murphy as Livin Large
- Giancarlo Esposito as Homeless Man (uncredited)
Lee dedicated the film to Yusuf Hawkins. Hawkins was killed on August 23, 1989, in Bensonhurst, New York by Italian-Americans who believed the youth was involved with a white girl in the neighborhood, though he was actually in the neighborhood to inquire about a used car for sale. According to the New York Daily News, "the attack had more to do with race than romance".
In the film, Flipper's brother, Gator, is a crack addict. He is constantly pestering his family members for money. His father has disowned him, but his mother and Flipper still occasionally give him money when he asks.
In an interview with Esquire, Jackson explains that he was able to effectively play the crack addict Gator because he had just gotten out of rehab for his own crack addiction. Because of his personal experience with the drug, Jackson was able to help Lee make Gator's character seem more realistic by helping establish Gator's antics and visibility in the film.
The film's soundtrack was by Stevie Wonder and was released by Motown Records. Although the album was created for the movie, it was released before the movie's premiere in May 1991. It has 11 tracks, all of which are written by Stevie Wonder, except for one. Though some believe that Wonder's album was unappealing, others believed that it was his best work in years.
The instrumental theme for the film is Bless the Star by Terence Blanchard. This theme was used in Mo Better Blues previously but does not appear on either's soundtrack.
The film garnered mostly positive reviews from critics, with particular praise for Samuel L. Jackson's performance as crack addict Gator, which is often considered to be his breakout role.On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 81% based on reviews from 48 critics. The site's consensus states: "Jungle Fever finds Spike Lee tackling timely sociopolitical themes in typically provocative style, even if the result is sometimes ambitious to a fault." On Metacritic the film has a score of 78% based on reviews from 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3.5 out of 4 and wrote: "Jungle Fever contains two sequences - the girl talk and the crackhouse visit - of amazing power. It contains humor and insight and canny psychology, strong performances, and the fearless discussion of things both races would rather not face."
- 1991 Cannes Film Festival
- Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards
- Best Supporting Actor: Samuel L. Jackson
- National Board of Review
- 10th Best Film of the Year
- New York Film Critics Circle Awards
- Best Supporting Actor: Samuel L. Jackson
- Political Film Society Human Rights Award
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
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- "The Joint Before the Joint: Spike Lee's Greatest Opening Credit Sequences". 7 July 2014.
- "5 Things To Know About 'Storm Over Brooklyn,' a New Doc About Yusuf Hawkins". Essence.
- "Yusef Hawkins, a black man, is killed by a white mob in 1989". NY Daily News. Archived from the original on 2015-08-22. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
- "Spike Lee Cools Off but His 'Fever' Doesn't". The Los Angeles Times. 1989-05-17. Retrieved 2010-10-02.[dead link]
- Freedman, Samuel G. (1991-06-02). "FILM; Love and Hate in Black and White". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
- Stephen Hunter (June 7, 1991). "Spike Lee's 'Jungle Fever' seethes with realities of interracial relationships". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 2019-08-07.
- Roger Ebert (June 7, 1991). "Jungle Fever". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2020-08-07.
- JOHN H. RICHARDSON (2010-12-15). "Samuel L. Jackson: What I've Learned". Esquire. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
- "Jungle Fever - Stevie Wonder | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
- "Spike Lee Cools Off but His 'Fever' Doesn't". Los Angeles Times. 1991-05-17. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
- "Jungle Fever (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes.
- "Jungle Fever". Metacritic.
- "Festival de Cannes: Jungle Fever". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-09.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.