Animal Kingdom Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 11, 2013
An intense, gritty depiction of a family whose life is dominated by crime and drugs, and how the youngest of the bunch (James Frecheville) is unfortunately faced with turning his uncles in after they commit a violent crime in retaliation to a corrupt police force. A cold-blooded Aussie thriller that features some powerful acting, especially Jacki Weaver as the matriarch of the bunch, and Ben Mendelsohn as one of the brothers who possesses a psychotic streak. It is a film that contains a lot of interesting twists and subtlety, as well as some pretty violent actions that successfully catch the viewer off guard. A simply riveting film that remains arresting throughout, with one of the more shocking endings I can recall.
Super Reviewer
½ December 25, 2010
One of the better opening monologues I've seen, eminently quotable and providing not only a snapshot of all the characters we'll meet, but also a voice for the film. Here's a taste:

"Mom kept me away from her family because she was scared. I didn't know it at the time, but they were all scared, even if they didn't show it [...]. Even if they didn't know it, exactly. Even if they were having to do what crooks do all the time, which is block out the thing they must know - they must know it - which is that crooks always come undone, one way or another. [...] All this seemed strange to me, but not strange, either, you know what I mean? Kids just are wherever they are, and they just do whatever they're doing. This is where I was, and this is what I was doing."

Josh's mom has just died of a drug overdose, and he tells us all this over the opening ten minutes, punctuated by a few telling conversations, as we see the family that he has no choice but to move in with, and the crimes he won't be able to help getting mixed up in. With the die cast, the stakes remain high, as this coming-of-age story has an angle like few others; as opposed to having to prove himself in the world of crime, Josh needs only to survive. Tense and well-acted, sincere but gritty, it's got several surprises and most importantly, comes across as a story that could be true. An unconventional crime flick that you must see.
Super Reviewer
½ August 3, 2012
An intriguing tension filled film, 'Animal Kingdom' is a strong debut feature from David Michod that draws you in with its darkly brooding characters. The film itself felt like a mix between 'Snowtown' and 'The Wire'. It was similar to 'Snowtown' with its central idea and setting but the constant feeling that no one is safe is reminiscent of 'The Wire'.

The film is shot rather conventionally but is filled with imagery revolving around the title. Although the idea isn't original what is original is Animal Kingdom's spin on it, relating a criminal family to a pack of lions.

Overall, although unoriginal 'Animal Kingdom' is a worthwhile watch with strong performances and an interesting spin on a much used subject.
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2011
An intense thriller about a teenage boy who gets pulled into a lair of dangerous lions - his own criminal family. With an intelligent script and a superb direction, this well-paced drama is absorbing and has great performances, especially Jacki Weaver as the matriarch of the Codies.
Super Reviewer
February 26, 2012
I don't know why this Indie "Goodfellas" didn't strike a chord with me, but I felt that it spent too much time with inanities and not enough in character development.

Essentially the story is of a teen boy who is taken in by Grandma after his mother dies of an overdose. The boy, Joshua comes off as somewhat wooden, full of "I dunno" and shrugs that, while typical of a teen, don't really amp up the drama; though you kind of feel for him as his situation becomes something where he's caught between the rock and the proverbial hard place.

Since I've already mentioned "Goodfellas" it won't be giving anything away to tell you that this is about a small to mid level crime family, obstensively run by Grandma (though while she seems to have fingers in many a pie, it is obvious that she cannot control her four sons, especially Pope, who is convincing as some kind of amoral loose canon. It is his actions that move the film... and that's the problem. For a family who has been successfully running several criminal operations for many a year, Pope sure does some really stupid things - the kind of things that make you wonder why he wasn't caught and put behind bars years ago.

The coppers here are portrayed as being hamstrung by the system - they keep making arrests, but the family keeps getting released, if for no other reason than it suits the ultimate plot setup, which has Joshua being cajoled into narcing on his family... all the while being coached by the family's lawyer in how to double deal. This part of the film is compelling, as the cops put him into a kind of witness protection, where Joshua finds out that there are elements within the police force who want him dead. The motivation for their desires is obvious to the viewer, but we're left wondering if Joshua can figure it all out. It's a nice cat and mouse game, but, once again, Joshua doesn't seem convincing in the part.

The film also spends far too much time setting a mood - showing us way too many "normal" scenes of the family, or Joshua's girl friend's family having a meal. To what end are all these eating scenes - there's little dialog of purpose here, so unless (and this could be a big reach) director/writer David Michod is giving some kind of oblique nod to the film's title, there can only be the underlying message that the members of this crime family are really just regular blokes... but then why show the girl friend's family meals? As for the girlfriend, Michod missed a real opportunity to develop a fascinating character -she remained a mere means to an end, and her tale unexplored.

This film was a winner at Sundance, and sadly, though there are some nice elements, I just couldn't get emotionally involved with Joshua's plight, nor did I find Pope, as the enforcer part of the family, convincing - except as a crazed buffoon doing the kind of things that no longstanding criminal with any brains would tolerate.
Super Reviewer
½ July 5, 2010
This Australian crime thriller works like a well timed punch into the guts. By killing off one of the supposed main characters after 15 minutes it clearly states that no one is safe in this tale of family, murder and betrayal. While the police is desperately trying to get the young nephew of a criminal clan to work with them, the family itself works well enough on bringing itself down, and taking everyone close with them. By the middle of this enthralling and uncomfortable film, things get so dire that you're tempted to pause it and watch a Disney movie instead. But you can't help but keep watching. The performances are top notch, especially Ben Mendelsohn is wonderfully menacing. The last minute solution is as consistent as the whole film and leaves you with a world that's simply not as beautiful as it was before. Outstanding movie making but certainly no feel good film.
Super Reviewer
September 10, 2011
Loosely inspired by real events circa 1988 in Melbourne, Australia proud of its metaphoric title, Animal Kingdom is remarkably thrilling and compelling story of vengeance and dying innocence. Powerful. Ferocious. Uncompromising.
Super Reviewer
May 10, 2011
Phenomenal. Good acting, great script. Dark and thought-provoking. One of the best crime films I've seen recently.
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2011
A truly eerie, matriarchal Australian crime drama that curls the fingers over.
Super Reviewer
February 3, 2011
Anyone that's familiar with the Australian television show "Neighbours" will know what I mean when I refer to this as the underbelly of 'Ramsey Street'. I'm not a fan of said television show and I'm not entirely convinced by the praise this film has critically received either.
After the accidental death of his heroin addicted mother, 17 year-old Joshua 'J' Cody (James Frecheville) goes to live with his grandmother, 'Smurf' (Jacki Weaver), and her criminal sons, Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and Darren (Luke Ford). The sudden arrival of their fugitive older brother, Pope (Ben Mendelsohn), gets the attention of the local cops, kick-starting a turf war that sees 'J' forced to fight for his survival.
As the film opens we get a decent introduction to the stoical nature of young 'J' as he shows a real lack of compassion, sitting on the couch watching TV, next to his deceased mother. This persona is no different from most of the characters throughout the film. The majority of them are devoid of any morals and the actors portraying them put in fantastic performances, particularly Mendelsohn as the unstable uncle and especially Weaver as the wicked-witch like matriarch. Despite the performances though, I still stuggled to see what all the fuss was about. Much like "Winter's Bone" from the same year, this has been subject to critics clambering over each other to applaud it's gritty dramatic nature. I found several things to enjoy; the performances and low-key style in which it's shot being the notable ones but it's certainly nothing groundbreaking. Being loosely based on fact, there's a definite feeling of realism but as mentioned earlier, it reminded me of an extended episode of "Neighbours" - with the gloves off - and I pretty much avoid Australian television whenever possible.
Not a bad film, in fact it's very good in places but it's been overpraised somewhat. There's no faulting the flawless performances though and it'll be interesting to see what writer/director David Michod comes up with next.
Super Reviewer
½ April 10, 2011
Kind of underwhelmed by this. It is not a bad movie for the crime genre and the cast are exceptionable, especially considering what Australian films are normally like, but something about it just didn't gel with me. Perhaps just personal taste - the person I watched it with raved over how good it is, and this is also someone who does not enjoy a lot of Australian films!
The ending was a little disappointing and I guess I am weary of too many australian films of this genre. Yes, we have a lot of d*heads here. Does every other local film have to feature them?!
As I said, though, very good cast and very well made film. I was especially impressed with the young actor it follows - perhaps that is why the ending didn't cut it for me. His portrayal of the character made me care and want better things for this young guy.
Super Reviewer
August 15, 2010
consider me blown away. everyone gushing over the town needs to see this. cuz this is how it's done
Super Reviewer
September 11, 2010
Much of this confused me as the volume was low and the Australian was fast, but the finer points are crystal clear. The action thriller is a hard genre to crack while maintaining a dramatic edge and intellectual flair. Instead of the usual romanticized vision of the crime boss shooting up the place, there isn't anyone I would want to root for. The renegade police officers are unmercilessly brutal, killing off the convicted brothers like boxelder bugs. The only person I felt any pity or regret for was the title character "J", who has to cover for Pope, his uncle, though he murdered his girlfriend using crack cocaine. The tactics with which Smurf manipulates her sons and grandson into doing her bidding and keeping their mouths shut was a tour de force performance for Jackie Weaver. Guy Pearce makes a stunning performance as the detective on the family's case, but it wasn't riddled with overly indulgent cliches. I was surprised with the family dynamic, and the carelessness of the murders of police officers, family members, and rogue strangers who just got in the way. A great film for 2010.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2011
A slow intensity builds the film about an unfortunate reality of law and moral breaking risks in ones eye to survive.
Super Reviewer
March 13, 2011
As it shocked me in every depth, David Mich├┤d's debutorial film, along with its spot on acting from every member of its cast (special mention to Ben Mendelsohn's chilling portrayal of a man gone way way south), kept me horrified and at the same time, filled me with awe. Every scene kept me literally on edge as to what will come next and satisfied me that what I expected was the very least of what Mich├┤d chillingly saw in every detail of this thought-provoking drama. This film shot straight up to first on my list of great films of all time.
Super Reviewer
March 3, 2011
Son of a freakin gun -- 97% of critics like this?!?! No offense, flixster buds, butEh, now I know I represent a true minority voice -- like as in 3%. For this one, friends, the tiny 3% say: NObody cares about ANY of these characters. Just my three-cents' worth. Fans -- meaning AT LEAST 3% of viewers -- of, say, The Godfather, need not spend one borating sleepless night worrying about this sucker toppling Number One. However, a 97% positive critics' rating says -- even to little old 3% me -- that you should definitely see this. So please do. And I hope you do enjoy it way more than I did.
Super Reviewer
½ February 28, 2011
This gritty, disturbing crime picture from Australia has as its best asset the subtle yet gripping performance by Jacki Weaver. Her performance is reason enough to seek out this film, but fortunately, the actual movie is one of the best movies of 2010.
The protagonist, a teenager named Josh, is born into an organized crime family. His mother has just died of a heroine overdose, and he is left in the care of his grandmother (Weaver), who might be more of a danger to him than a guardian. Josh has a girlfriend who he is madly in love with, one of the reasons why he wants to stay away from the life of crime that all his uncles are into, but unfortunately, he keeps getting sucked into it through fear and pressure.
Twists and turns aplenty, very few of them contrived, Animal Kingdom is an original take on a tired genre. This is a gripping film about being born into circumstances out of your control, and having to fight yourself, the law, and your own family just to survive.
Super Reviewer
½ February 19, 2011
Dark and violent drama revolving around a family of criminal lowlives takes a while to get going but settles into the rhythm of everyday life which makes it all the more disturbing. Jacki Weaver's much lauded performance evolves also as the film progesses and by the end the full vileness of her character is revealed with great skill.
Super Reviewer
½ February 18, 2010
Australian writer-director David Mich˘d's first feature-length film?! Are you kidding me?! Viscerally fantastic!
Super Reviewer
½ February 17, 2011
A gritty drama from Australia, Animal Kingdom depicts a family of thugs and drug dealers upheld by a brutal matriarch. Its built-in tension and Oscar-worthy performances had me at the edge of my seat.
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