Animal Kingdom

28 Nov

Title: Animal Kingdom
Year:
2010
Director:
David Michôd
Writer:
David Michôd
Starring:
Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, Sullivan Stapleton, James Frecheville, Dan Wyllie, Anthony Hayes
MPAA Rating:
R, violence, drug content and pervasive language
Runtime:
113 min
Major Awards:
1 NBR Award
IMDb Rating:
7.7
Rotten Tomatoes:
96%

I saw Animal Kingdom already having heard it was superb, and I was still amazed at just how great a film it ultimately was, and I can’t help but envy those who saw the film with no such great expectations and came out with their minds blown. Because this really is an amazing film, one that is tightly scripted and that has an unbelievably good cast all around, and that may well just be the best Australian film ever made.

This is one the most compelling films I have seen all year, one that gets under your skin and will hold you by the throat throughout its entirety. The film deals with a family in Melbourne that’s part of the city’s crime underworld, and it’s a very dark film, a very gritty film that counts with performances so perfect that you’ll fall in love with just how good it is. The fact that this is David Michôd’s first feature film directorial effort is astounding, the talent he shows here, in a film he also wrote, is terrific. He crafts a movie that has this very realistic feel to it, both in what it shows and in the naturalistic performances it boosts, one that’s dense and patient and, most importantly, one that’s plain out great.

The title of this film is also great, I loved the metaphor it presented, because the world Mr. Michôd presents is indeed a wild one, one with a definite hierarchy and one in which anything goes. The film actually opens with shots of lions, imagery for the family we’re about to meet, in which drug dealing and armed robbery are commonplace and in which they make their own law. We hear the story from the perspective of J. Cody, who narrates this to us years after the story took place, he’s the one part of the family that’s not so much into the family’s business, and he is thrown into the midst of it all when his mother dies from an overdose and he’s sent to live with his grandmother Smurf and her three sons, Pope, Darren and Craig.

Smurf Cody is played by Jacki Weaver, and this is the MVP performance out of a film full of stand-outs and Ms. Weaver is being mentioned alongside Melissa Leo and Helena Bonham Carter as one of the front-runners for the Best Supporting Actress race this awards season, as well as she should be, she’s seriously riveting here. Smurf is the mama lion of this dangerous clan, and she’s a very polarizing character, she’s very loving towards her sociopathic sons, perhaps a bit too loving, and yet there’s something in her blue-eyed stare that pretty much assures your mind that she’s the worst one of them all. And that’s saying something considering her sons, the eldest is Pope, a drug-addled crazy man who’s the leader of the three brothers; then comes Craig a coke dealer and user; and finally the youngest one, Darren, who’s Smurf’s favorite and, as usual considering he’s the youngest one, the one that gets crap from his brothers and does their bidding.

This is a film with an amazing mood, one that fills you up as you watch it and keeps you totally enthralled for its duration. The bad blood between the family and the cops is amazing to watch develop on this story, and it all goes nicely along with the evolution of J. as the brothers try to initiate him into the family business, which goes against his own ideals. This one starts building up slowly, adding dense layer after layer to the film’s plot and by the time the first half’s over it’s already cooked up a boiling sense of thrills and tension that’s what makes this film so wonderful.

You get to see the three brothers starting to fear for themselves because of what they’ve gotten into as the police comes into the picture more noticeably, led by sergeant Nathan Leckie, played by Guy Pearce, who’s been in a fair share of good Australian movies and is an actor I really like. Sergeant Leckie is just a cold-ass motherfucker, to put it lightly, apparently the only moral person in the very unmoral town he protects, and the scenes in which he’s seen interrogating J. are seriously awesome to watch unravel. This is a very dark tale that Mr. Michôd decides to tell, but the way in which he tells it is stunning, the film is gripping from beginning to end, a genre film executed to the highest of levels with a man with serious promise in the film industry and cast filled with the best talent his home country has to offer.

I don’t really know if there was a single thing I didn’t like about Animal Kindgom, the film just completely wrapped me up with the amazing mood it set, the cinematography, the lighting, and especially the music, everything goes on to make a seriously amazing experience out of this Australian gem. I guess one could potentially find fault with the ending, the most vital part of it never actually being shown to us, but even though that’s the case, this one didn’t feel any less complete to me.

And that’s thanks to the awesome cast this film gathered. Ms. Weaver especially is amazing, and she should have no problem getting that Oscar nomination and if the win comes, I think it would be deserving, though honestly I’ve still to check out any of the aforementioned two contending performances, but still, hers is still one commanding performance. Her character is the more complex one of the story, and Ms. Weaver seems to understand every single one of the layers Smurf has to perfection. And the rest of the cast is also amazing, Mr. Pearce rocks it, Mr. Frecheville, who plays J., does a fantastic job as the kid in a tough man’s world, just trying to make it out alive and narrates this film to perfection. Simply put this is just a seriously incredible film through and through, Animal Kingdom is one of the better debuts to come out in a while, and will surely fascinate every one who watches it.

Grade: A

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