sun 14/08/2022

DVD: Animal Kingdom | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Animal Kingdom

DVD: Animal Kingdom

David Michôd’s striking debut sees a family of Australian armed robbers set to implode

David Michôd’s stark, screw-tight debut is, in his own words, a “grand Melbourne crime drama”. Though it presents us with a menagerie of criminality it eschews many of the paradigms of the genre and feels courageous in its elegant, near suffocating intensity.

Joshua “J” Cody (James Frecheville) is our emotionally impotent, blank-slate narrator, blunted by a life that relentlessly deals him a losing hand. After his mother overdoses he is taken in by his Grandma “Smurf” (a stunning, Oscar-nominated Jacki Weaver), a “Mommie Dearest” mafioso who has raised a gang of armed robbers. A lumbering lamb in a lioness’s den, J’s passive acceptance of his fate is delivered with bald monotony when he states, “This was just the world I got thrown into.”

 

In Animal Kingdom we’re introduced to a family already entering their final reel, who are at the mercy of a rogue armed-robbery squad. The whole film exists in fallout mode, with the family imploding under the omnipresent threat of incarceration and violent death.

When one of their number is killed, J’s volatile uncle “Pope” (an unforgettably malevolent Ben Mendelsohn) rises ominously to the fore. Pope is an augur of doom, a suburban Grim Reaper. His diametric opposite is Detective Senior Sergeant Leckie (Guy Pearce, sporting Tom Selleck’s moustache), who tries to steer the vulnerable J over to his side.

Animal Kingdom is defined by its chillingly prosaic brutality. Michôd (who also penned the screenplay) directs with a sure hand, presenting the subject matter with impressive sincerity and striking a fine balance between authenticity and artistry. Masterful in its mundane menace, it’s an exhilarating film based around a collection of remarkable performances.

Extras comprise: cast and director’s commentaries, interviews and a substantial, intimate, near feature-length “making-of”, which gives considerable insight into the 10-year-long process which brought Animal Kingdom so devastatingly to the screen.

Watch the trailer for Animal Kingdom

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