Jun 15, 2010

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is a triumph in so many ways. A triumph in story telling, in direction, in acting and cinematography. It is a lucid and intense portrayal of a family living on the edge of impending disaster. In a golden age for Australian cinema this just might be the finest film of this period. It is thrilling, moving and totally compelling.

Animal Kingdom is set in modern day Melbourne and is concerned with the Cody family, a family entrenched in the underground world. At the head is Janine (Jacki Weaver), better known as 'Smurf'. She has three sons in 'Pope' (Ben Mendelsohn), the eldest and most powerful, the drug dealer Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and Darren (Luke Ford). Also in the family fold is trusted lieutenant Barry Brown (Joel Edgerton). In the beginning of the film they are under siege from the police. 'Pope' is in hiding and Brown is even considering leaving the lifestyle behind. Then enters 'J' (James Frecheville), whose mother has just died. He is a grand son of 'Smurf' and has not been brought up in the criminal world. But soon he is heavily embroiled in this dangerous lifestyle and he has many choices to make that become critical to his ultimate survival. The other major character is Detective Leckie (Guy Pearce), a good and honest man in a world of questionable characters. The narrative of this film is extremely strong, with many surprises and shocks. A major one occurs barely a quarter into the film. The script is tight and devoid of cliche. This is more a psychological drama then a gangster film. It is subtle and nuanced, with the characters' layers peeling away scene by scene. All performances are outstanding, but special mention must go to Weaver and Mendelsohn. Both are outstanding in their roles that sometimes border on psychotic. Animal Kingdom is an important and vital film. It is mature, impressive cinema. Strongly recommended.

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