A story about a troubled boy growing up in England, set in 1983. He comes across a few skinheads on his way home from school, after a fight. They become his new best friends even like family. Based on experiences of director Shane Meadows.
Despite being no saint herself, Julia Cody has shielded her seventeen year old son, Joshua "J" Cody, from her Melbourne-based criminal relatives who they have not seen in years. After Julia dies in front of J's eyes from a self-inflicted heroin overdose, J, who is slightly detached from life, feels he has no choice but to contact his maternal grandmother, Janine "Smurf" Cody, the family matriarch, for a place to live. Smurf rules the family with a borderline incestuous love over her three sons, the quietly menacing Andrew "Pope" Cody, the hyperactive Craig Cody, and the barely of age Darren Cody. Pope and his best friend, Barry "Baz" Brown, are armed robbers, with Darren their up and coming apprentice, while Craig is a mid level drug dealer. Melbourne's Armed Robbery Squad is after specifically Pope, who is hiding out. But when the standoff between the Codys and the Armed Robbery Squad is brought up a notch, an all out war ensues, with some casualties and J caught in the middle. The ... Written by
[Barry is approached by detectives, thinking that they are after Pope]
Oh sorry guys. You just missed him.
Armed robbery detective:
That's alright. We like you better.
[shouting, referring to Barry who is unarmed]
He's got a gun!
[the Armed Robbery Detective raises his rifle up and shoots Barry]
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The backdrop to this movie is Melbourne, Australia in the mid-1980's, which (according to the director) had one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the world. At the time, there were several deaths in Melbourne in which wanted and suspected criminals were killed by the police under suspicious circumstances. These killings in turn supposedly ignited a slew of retaliatory murders perpetrated on police officers (cf. the "Walsh Street" police shootings).
This is a movie about a young man (Josh or "J," played by James Frecheville) whose extended family are all criminals. Using the character of seventeen-year-old J as a sort of catalyst, the movie explores a variety of crime-related issues, from the effects of growing up in a world where criminal activity is the norm, to the escalation of crime that is a natural consequence of vigilantism (especially when the vigilantes are police).
The characters are all played very well, with exceptionally good performances given by Ben Mendelsohn, Jackie Weaver, Sullivan Stapleton and young James Frecheville in his debut as J.
While "Animal Kingdom" starts slowly (perhaps -too- slowly for some), it continually builds in intensity throughout the entire movie, culminating with an ending that is both shocking and yet inevitable. In particular, the movie has a very compelling scene played perfectly by Mendelsohn, with an awesome supporting role played by Luke Ford - I'm sure this scene repulsed many in the audience (it certainly repulsed me). At first, I feared that the scene was added by the director merely as a gratuitous exploitation of the audience's emotions. However, as the movie progresses, the scene's outcome becomes an integral part of the plot development, and is therefore necessary for the completion of the main story.
This movie will not be for everybody - the subject matter and the honest way in which the movie portrays it made the movie somewhat taxing at times to sit through. However, I think those willing to consider the necessity of telling the story of "Animal Kingdom" will find the movie entertaining and thought-provoking - I certainly did.
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