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Animal Kingdom

A while back, I watched Animal Kingdom, an Australian crime film by David Michod and staring Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton and Jackie Weaver. Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for her performance of the mother who ruled her criminal family.

It's actually a pretty sweet little film, if you've never seen it. The central character of the film, Josh, is played by James Frencheville, who does a fine job of portraying an emotionally dead teenager who starts the film sitting on the couch with his OD'd mother next to him, waiting for the paramedics while watching Deal or No Deal on the television. With barely more than a handful of words to be said at any one time, Frencheville's character is an empty, moral free plate that finds an easy home with his grandmother and her sons, who led by Barry (Edgerton) are on the edge of giving up their careers of bank robbing. The risk and the money just isn't worth it, he says at one point to his brother, Pope, who is currently in hiding from the Armed Robbery Squad in Melbourne. One of his other brothers makes his money from selling drugs, but Barry, he sees the stock market as a way out.

Until, of course, it all goes to shit.

Animal Kingdom was not the kind of crime film I thought it was going to be, based on the trailer. I was, if I was being honest, originally put off a little by it, since I thought it was going to be a film with shoot outs, people running round streets, and explosions. Think a cheap Heat. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Heat. But I don't love a cheap Heat, and in a film where Edgerton and Mendelsohn were acting, it would have been a cheap Heat. But, to my surprise, the film is actually well cast, and uses the actors well, allowing them--especially Mendelsohn--to work to their strengths. Edgerton's everyday Barry, the man who holds everyone together, who is even tempered and sees things as they are, is the rock of the family, and his foil, in Mendelsohn's Pope, an erratic, violent man, who is slowly ostracizing himself from his family. When the violence happens from and to these men, it is short and brutal and with consequences that inform the rest of the film.

So, in short, a decent film, worth the time to watch it. My only real disappointment in the film was with Jackie Weaver's character and I think, in part, this was because of the fact that everyone talked about it so much. It's not a bad role, don't get me wrong, and she does a pretty good job with it--but it's really not the Most Evil Mother in Film (hello Angela Lansbury in the Manchurian Candidate) and until the last twenty five minutes of the film she is mostly in the edges. To hear people talk about her, you think she's going to be in the film a lot more, and to have a lot more of a stronger part to play, perhaps like Lansbury in the aformentioned film. But that is a problem that arises from listening to others and is easily avoided, and Animal Kingdom is a pretty neat film, as I have said.


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May. 27th, 2011 06:16 am (UTC)
I'd agree with all this, including my slight disconnect between Jackie Weaver's role and the commentary about it.
Jun. 1st, 2011 04:07 am (UTC)
yeah, just one of those things about being late to the party, i guess.
May. 27th, 2011 07:21 am (UTC)
The film got a 5/5 for me. I saw it before the Jackie Weaver hype began and I thought she was great. She is on the edges, until the end, when she is the one holding on and obviously the one in control all along. (Judy Moran? Ha!)

Mendelsohn is at his best. Very very scary, and realistically so.
Jun. 1st, 2011 04:07 am (UTC)
yeah, mendelsohn was great. it was good to see him in a film again where he was being used properly.
May. 30th, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC)
Decent and accurate review, apart from the Heat comparison. It's considerably better than Heat.

I'd agree with many reviewers that when it was released it was the best, hardest-hitting and most naturalistic urban drama set in Australia for quite a while. Better for example than Little Fish. An influence could be the old David Wenham film The Boys, if you remember that.

Seeing Snowtown tomorrow night. That's supposed to be right up there in the quality stakes.
Jun. 1st, 2011 04:06 am (UTC)
hmm. i do vaguely remember the boys, i think.

but i must say, i love HEAT. there is no real comparison between the two, and i have a huge soft spot for what is, essentially, the last good film of pacino and de'niro and mann.
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