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
Aussie thriller enlivened by good twists and performances
ANIMAL KINGDOM is another slice of gruelling nastiness that comes to us courtesy of our Australian cousins. It's not quite as downbeat and depressing as SNOWTOWN, although it gets close at times. This elaborate thriller is about a sprawling family of ne'er-do-wells and no-good criminals and what happens when a young and innocent relation is brought into the fold.
It's not really the narrative that's important here, although there are a number of fresh situations and off-hand moments that make it stand out (that opener is a real clincher). It works best when delivering a series of shocks and sudden twists that the viewer certainly doesn't see coming. No, it's the characterisation where ANIMAL KINGDOM really shines; this is a film for actors, showcasing a number of realistic performances from the cast.
Ben Mendelsohn is the one who really stands out in his star-making turn as the thoroughly creepy guy at the top of the chain, while Joel Edgerton and Sullivan Stapleton bring depth to their otherwise thuggish roles. James Frecheville plays it quiet and understated as the lead although the reliable Guy Pearce shines as a cop. Jacki Weaver may play one of the most understated and nasty characters ever. It's a decent film, certainly more compelling than most things Hollywood put out these days.
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