Director: David Michod
Cast: Guy Pearce, James Frecheville, Joel Edgerton, Jacki Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn
Watch Animal Kingdom online in the UK: Amazon Prime / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play / Sky Store
G’day, Bruce. Whack another corpse on the barbie. She’ll be right. That’s precisely why you don’t set a gangster movie in Australia. And if you do, you better make sure that 1. It’s blooming marvellous and 2. Guy Pearce is in it. No worries, mate: Animal Kingdom manages both. Bonzer.
Little Joshua Cody’s (Frecheville) mum has just copped it. Starting with a brilliantly underplayed shot of Cody watching Wheel of Fortune, director David Michod whisks him away to his Aunt Janine (Weaver) and her mostly illegal offspring. There’s the stupid one who follows orders and the yobbo who thinks he’s a big fish in a little water hole. And then there’s the head of the clan, Pope (Mendelsohn), who’s just out of prison and is basically a psycho. They’re a lovely bunch: what they lack in functionality, they more than make up for with violence.
Things proceed in a measured way, as we witness Cody’s coming of age. He gets a girl, accessorises a bit of murder, and walks around looking confused a lot. And he does it all with the skill of an Aussie Thomas Turgoose.
Then, straight-laced good cop Leckie (Pearce) turns up, all moral complex and Gary Oldman moustache. Interviewing Shane several times as they track down his uncle, the scenes between Leckie and Cody are superbly done. With his convincing non-committal responses, newcomer James never feels like he’s from fresh-ville (ahem). Half the time, we just listen to Guy Pearce while gazing at weeds in the pavement.
“Some animals are weak, but they survive because they’re being protected by the strong for one reason or another…” the detective waxes lyrically. Then he warns: “You gotta work out where you fit.”
When Shane does find his place, it’s a heck of a kicker. Until then, you can enjoy Oscar-nominated Jacki Weaver, who mixes her ruthless mother hen with occasional flashes of regret. Acting with her eyes and her teeth, she’s Don Corleone by way of Susan Kennedy. Ben Mendelsohn, too, is great as the drug-taking Pope (there’s a phrase we can all enjoy), switching between menace and self-destruction with some wonderfully odd facial expressions. He’s the Dr. Karl Kennedy of the bunch. Well directed and with a good ear for natural speech, Animal Kingdom has an epic runtime, but matches it with equally epic acting. Strewth, it’s good.
Animal Kingdom is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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