Animal Kingdom

Director: David Michod.
Starring: Jacki Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Sullivan Stapleton, James Frecheville, Luke Ford, Laura Wheelwright. Australia. 1h 53m

There is something extraordinarily authentic about Animal Kingdom, this sinister tale of a twisted criminal family is something can nervously be regarded as far fetched, but after an ounce of research into the criminal underworld of the Land Down Under, after watching this movie there’s a lingering fear that “based on a true story” might appear in the closing credits.

With characters like the notorious Chopper (2000) and the gut churning Snowtown (2011) just two pieces of projects based on real events and people, this just feels like the next step in a progression of a young country with a criminal culture that’s making up for lost time.

Centring on a young boy who’s suddenly thrown into an alien world with outsiders, but these strangers just happen to be his own family. It seems that his mother before her unfortunate accident, kept him away from his extended family but due to her own drug addiction the movie opens with Joshua ‘J’ Cody (Frecheville) sitting next to the corpse of his mother while waiting for paramedics to save her after an overdose, the confused fella is more interested in what is going on with TV.

The audience is introduced to the family along with J so his mother did a really good job in keeping them apart and that’s her saving grace. After a call to his gran Janine (Weaver) he’s taken under her wing and the timid boy is more of a spectator to this kooky lot who’s moral compass spins like a centrifuge. Joel Edgerton plays a close friend Baz, he’s curt but more even tempered, Craig (Stapleton) is full of energy mostly due to the amount of drugs he takes, but seems to be a live wire, but the worst of the worse is uncle Pope (Mendelsohn), a total shifty cunt, who’s recent activity has him in hiding from police, he’s fucked off the local force to the stage where they seem to carry out a hit on another member of the family. Like predators stuck in a corner, they become more paranoid and dangerous.

This causes a pretty active war between the Cody’s and the police but no one is fighting fair and both realise that J is the new boy who can be manipulated and used a pawn in this deadly game.

From my armchair on the other side of the planet the film feels authentic, it’s presentation isn’t flamboyant or glamorised in many ways, which adds to it’s visceral punch. None of the characters really came across as being tacky, there’s so much solid acting that’s it’s hard to find fault and if I could it would be an injustice to point it out.

As much as the family are solid together they are so quick to band together with suspicion and like smiling serpents they embrace J and even his girlfriend Nicky is welcomed and turn on them with the same smiling faces. To them this is easy dirty work. It takes J so much time to finally wake up to the danger he’s in, it almost became frustrating. Clearly the boy is in a tough spot, his just lost his mother and doesn’t have anyone to turn to, well that’s not true, someone does extend his hand and that’s Officer Leckie (Pearce) he’s promises to protect the lad but who rats on their own family. He’s been convinced that he’s a proud member of the Cody clan. And after a lot of trials and tribulations in the final gripping scene he eventually shows them that he is indeed of the same ilk.

The film is so subtlety cruel, Jacki Weaver, who plays the touchy feely mother gave me nightmares, she’s one of the coldest bitches on the planet and did a perfect job playing this hard-hitting role.

There really isn’t a dull moment throughout the movie, it start out with a creepy dark moment that’s almost hard to process, the body count is high for a drama, but it’s not the amount of bodies but it’s how and why.

Michod doesn’t break any new ground in this genre but as a first feature it’s an incredible example of a good example of a crime thriller that’s not sensationalised for the sake of it, and relies on good storytelling and acting, most of the violence isn’t even on screen as it’s a by product of some deadly wrongens but each scene is intense with steady maintenance of the languid atmosphere and the foreboding sense of dread and doom well conveyed by moody, atmospheric score, the movie takes its time to grow the uneasy tension behind the scenes.

Rating 7/10

R: Snowtown (2011), Chopper (2000),
L: Australia A-Z
5s: Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce

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