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Animal Kingdom (2010)

A crime story.

Starring:

Anthony Hayes

Ben Mendelsohn

Dan Wyllie

Guy PearceGuy Pearce

Jacki Weaver

James Frecheville

Joel Edgerton

Luke Ford

Sullivan Stapleton

Directed by:

David Michôd

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 113 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: Australia

Oh joy, another gangster flick to romanticise the death, destruction and drug peddling of a family of the criminally insane and morally dubious? No, actually, Australia’s latest effort, Animal Kingdom is a deep, refreshingly mature and unglamorous delve into the relationships of a criminal family on the slide.

David Michôd’s movie tells the story of seventeen-year-old Josh (Frecheville) who goes to live with his doting Grandma Smurf (Weaver) and her criminal brood after his Mum dies of a drugs overdose. Grandma rules over her family – including hyperactive drugdealer Craig (Stapleton), psychotic bank robber Pope (Mensdelsohn), youngster Darren (Ford) and best mate Baz (Edgerton) – with a love bordering on incest and in these difficult surroundings Josh tries to keep his head down, do what he’s told and muddle through. However, things start to get out of hand when Baz and Craig are shot by the police and the boys go out looking for revenge. Then Sargeant Leckie (Pearce) and the serious long arm of the law get involved and vie for Josh’s assistance.

Animal Kingdom is full of excellent performances and comprehensive characterisation built up over the film throughout it’s bravely meandering pace. Jackie Weaver possibly steals the show with her sickly sweet but undoubtedly creepy and malicious Grandma Smurf, Guy Pearce brings effortless Hollywood class to proceedings and the four major crims all subtly differ and represent varying criminal and psychotic tendencies.There are no cheerful montages of drugtaking and bankrobbing to an iconic soundtrack of the era. There’s also none of the usual gangster arcs – starting at the bottom, moving their way up, enjoying the high life, before it all unravels and they get caught – instead Animal Kingdom kind of starts in the middle, so we just get to see the inglorious crashing and burning amidst betrayal and desperation. It might sound like they’ve ruined a well-worn formula but this stripped back approach gives us something more gripping and believable.

It's Got: Excellent performances, just the right mix of violence and plot, a bravely slow pace

It Needs: Just one smile from James Frecheville.

Alternatives:

American History X, Chopper, The Krays

Summary

A refreshingly mature gangster movie from Australia. Characterisation, themes and plot dominate Animal Kingdom and leave no room for the usual childish romanticisation.

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