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3.9 out of 5 stars
Animal Kingdom [Blu-ray]
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 November 2011
Animal Kingdom is David Michod's feature directing debut, and what a debut! Certainly one of the best Australian films I have ever seen along with, say, Lantana, The Proposition and the Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. I guess the difficulty now for Michod is following it up with something of comparable quality.

Animal Kingdom charts the experiences of 17-year old Joshua Cody, as, following the death of his mother from a drugs overdose, he finds himself being 'adopted' by his near family, who (unfortunately for him) happen to be part of the criminal underworld, led by his maternal grandmother Janine Cody and her three sons. Michod directs with surprising assurance (given this is his debut) and has produced a slow-burning, brooding thriller whose main themes are misguided family loyalty mixed with near psychotic bursts of behaviour.

The cast is outstanding with three particular standouts for me. Ben Mendelsohn as Andrew 'Pope' Cody, the psychotic 'leader' of the family gang is disturbingly convincing in what is a remarkably underplayed, brooding role. Jacki Weaver as the grandmother Janine Cody is absolutely superb as the 'kindly' matriarch who has the best interests of her family at heart, but just happens to be completely deranged at the same time - she was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for this role. Finally, James Frecheville, in only his second film, puts in a very promising performance as the innocent grandson Joshua, who is totally convincing as he attempts to make very difficult moral judgements.

Great stuff, and essential viewing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2011
I almost had to seek assistance in wrenching myself away from the settee following the conclusion of this film, such was the degree to which it had me throughly gripped in anticipation and treidation for the plight of the lead character. Y'know theres cinematic apprehension that you get with films such as 'the departed' and then theres films like this that are so realistic in their portrayal of events and the subculture that they seek to represent that the suspense factor is simply jacked to the max. Some sublime performances from the cast throughout, particularly from the young lead actor. Proof in the pudding that you can be unhollywood without being arty and pretentious.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
17 year old Josh's mother dies from an OD which forces him to move back into his crime family. His grandmother (Jacki Weaver) is the Ma Barker type in that she stereotypically loves her boys perhaps a little too much in an unhealthy way. The beginning of the movie is filled with a lot of Josh's first person narration which introduces the characters as well as give us Josh's fatalist philosophy that is well beyond his age and maturity.

His new family teaches him things he didn't learn living with his mother like: Washing your hands after you use the restroom, playing pull my finger, and using a gun for road rage. As a "crime family" they are rather unimpressive. Selling cocaine seems to be their major source of income and they have help with an inside man to do that. Josh wants out, but doesn't know how to do it.

The film at times moves slow but is never dull. It is more drama than action. Josh (James Frecheville) is the main character and is seldom far from a scene.

F-bomb. No sex or nudity.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A good tight plot, plenty of very good actors and we are in business. This tale of a cadet branch of a Melbourne crime family and its run-ins with rogue (and otherwise) police is a grim one without the sentimentality that can appear in Hollywood films. There are plenty of twists, and the tongue-tied acting of the lead is right on the money. Good stuff.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2012
You have a pretty good idea of where you are within the first minutes of Animal Kingdom.

The credits appear over images of an armed robbery and the story opens with a young man sitting next to an unconscious lady. Deal Or No Deal's on the box and it looks like a normal day in a boring life. Normal, that is, until the paramedics turn up and set to work on the woman who had OD'd on heroine.

The young man is Joshua Cody. He calls his estranged grandmother to ask for help with the funeral arrangements and ends up moving in with her.

Joshua's mother kept him away from his extended family in the hope that he wouldn't get mixed up in their crime syndicate of robbery and drug pushing. Now that he's in the arms of his Grandmother, Smurf, things don't look good.

Smurf is a matriarchal lune. She has 4 crazy sons, 3 living at home and the craziest of them all, Pope, who's in hiding. For the set-up, think Cody Jarrett in White Heat, here; it's unlikely that the choice of name for the Animal Kingdom family is purely accidental.

The Cody family is in trouble because the lawless drug enforcers in police uniform are watching their every move in a bid to find Pope.

The film is stark. It's often static and claustrophobic. The characters are brutally real and easy to get to know. There are no bells and whistles to distract from the story's tension and uncomfortable quality. The performances are superb and the whole piece fits together like apple, sugar and pastry. Pope would have fitted well in to Blue Velvet and the main character Josh is played in a deadpan way that suggests the actor James Frecheville is going places (if he hasn't already).

There's no doubt that this is one to watch.

I'd also like to appeal to fans of Australian cinema to point me in the direction of more similar movies should there be many of them around.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2012
I love australian cinema and this film doesnt disappoint . This shows a real crime family , far removed from the british cartoon rubbish . All the actors are excellent , Jacki Weaver amazing [ a real woman actress , unlike so many of the fake botox americans] and ofcourse Guy Pierce is once again brilliant . This is an adult film so its not always pleasant but it had me on the edge of my seat .
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 October 2011
I've been a fan of Australian independent cinema since the 70s and seeing Animal Kingdom reminds me exactly why! What could have been just another Goodfellas clone turns out to be a genuinely fresh take on the gangster movie.

If you're expecting plenty of action, violence and bank heists (the Cody clan are bank robbers after all) you may be disappointed because this is a film about the relationships behind the crimes, not criminality itself. To that extent it's probably more inspired by The Godfather than anything else, though the scale is much smaller, the focus suburban, more gritty.

What it does share with The Godfather is a superb ensemble cast, excellent script and a level of ambiguity that never baffles but is always thought provoking. The acting is brilliant, from Jacki Weaver's matriarch `Smurf' (who could so easily have become a cliché but instead is vaguely incestuous, teary-eyed and more menacing than her psycho sons) to newcomer James Frecheville who remains a cipher for the entire film; a blank surface upon which the other characters reflect and are illuminated.

Combine all this with a crisp, mobile cinematography and a plot that has some genuinely surprising/shocking moments and you have a film that I would strongly suggest you see.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 2011
This Australian film received such brilliant reviews that I approached it not knowing what to expect. It seemed a different film to that reviewed (in fact, better) and the story revolves around a teenager who's mother dies of a heroin overdose. He is taken in by his grandmother to live with his four uncles, all of whom are serial criminals. To balance matters, the police serious crime squad are crims, too, bumping off outlaws when proper justice fails them. The cat and mouse game between the two factors, with Guy Pierce as the detective sergeant is entrancing and the two hours fly by.
The film won the Sundance International Awards in 2010 and it is easy to see why.
For a film that has only recently been in the cinemas, the cheap price was a pleasant surprise, too.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Crime sagas often work well when they're told from the point of view of someone on the periphery of the main action. In this case, it's 17-year-old Josh who's just become an orphan and turns to his grandmother and uncles for support. Unfortunately for him, they're heavily involved with violent crime, which compels him to have to decide the direction in which he wishes to take his own life. Punctuated by several surprising twists and refreshingly devoid of cliches, Animal Kingdom strikes an admirable balance between cranking up the tension and presenting an engaging character study. James Frecheville as Josh and Jacki Weaver as the inscrutable matriarch are quite superb, as is the evocation of the Australian setting. A triumph.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Animal Kingdom wasn't even on the radar when I stumbled across it, looking for new films. Reading reviews, I thought I'd found a hidden gem, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped.

Don't get me wrong. It's OK. I mean, it's a good film - but reading some of the reviews on here I thought I'd found the next A Prophet or Scarface or something, but it's not in the same league.

Although, as an example of style and film making it's very well executed, it just lacked any Va-Va-Voom. It was a very slow film which built tension rather than let off steam and excitement.

It's taken me a few weeks to get round to writing this review because the main star gave a (intentionally) totally emotionless and flat performance throughout; this, combined with a lack of any real action throughout, left me feeling exhausted and deflated. It was a very grey, grim and dismal experience. The film dose well in creating a not very nice atmosphere throughout and this kind of rubs off on you and stays with you after watching.

There is a twist, of sorts, but that was spoilt for me too as one of the other reviews on here starts by blowing that - so careful what you read if you're thinking of buying this.

There's no denying that Animal Kingdom was well executed. I'm just not sure watching it was an experience I really enjoyed. Lifeless, dreary, lacklustre, featureless, droning, emotionless, glassy, impassive: these are all words I could associate with this film.

I'm unsure whether or not to give it 3 or 4 stars but I think I'm going to go with 3. It's well made, well acted and creates tension well - but I thought it just lacked... something. To me it felt monotonous.
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