Film Review: Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom
About Animal Kingdom (2010)
Animal KingdomFollowing the death of his mother, 17-year–old Joshua ‘J’ Cody (James Frecheville) moves in with his hitherto–estranged family, under the watchful eye of his doting grandmother, Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Jacki Weaver), and her three criminal sons–the Cody boys. Eldest son and armed robber, Andrew ‘Pope’ Cody (Ben Mendelsohn) is in hiding from a gang of renegade detectives. Middle brother Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) is a successful but volatile drug dealer, whilst the youngest Cody, Darren (Luke Ford), naïvely follows his elder brothers’ lead. Just as Pope’s business partner and best friend, Barry Brown (Joel Edgerton), decides that he wants out of the game, recognising that their days of old–school banditry are all but over, tensions between the family and the police explode. J finds himself at the centre of a cold–blooded revenge plot that turns his family upside down and which throws him directly into the path of senior homicide detective, Nathan Leckie (Guy Pearce).

Writer and director David Michôd’s brutal and captivating depiction of Melbourne’s criminal underbelly heralds the arrival of an intense new voice to contemporary Australian Cinema.

Starring: Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton

Directed by: David Michod

Runtime: 113 minutes

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

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Review: Animal Kingdom

Joshua Cody (James Frecheville) is forced to live with his grandmother Janine (Jackie Weaver) after his mother dies from a heroin overdose. Joshua and his mum had previously had no contact with the rest of the Cody family but Janine is delighted to have her grandson come and live with the family. Joshua comes into the circle of Janine’s three criminal sons – the volatile Andrew (Ben Mendelsohn), drug addict Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and the quiet, easily led Darren (Luke Ford). Joshua finds a girlfriend, Nicky (Laura Wheelwright), and settles into the family but his uncles are keen to immerse him into their way of life.

When Barry (Joel Edgerton), best friend of Andrew and a friend in general to the Cody family, is murdered by police officers, Andrew vows revenge and calls on his brothers to join him in taking vengeance against the police. Joshua is roped into their plan which sees two police officers murdered though Joshua isn’t present at the scene of the crime. What follows is a tense battle between the Cody family and the police with Joshua stuck in the middle, not wanting to risk Nicky’s safety, while a concerned police officer Nathan (Guy Pearce) tries to guide Joshua away from joining his family in their criminal life.

This is a gripping crime drama from start to finish, inspired by true events as well. The three Cody brothers are well portrayed here, each with their own unique traits, while Weaver’s is a delightfully complex depiction of Janine who always insists on kissing her boys and seems a gentle soul, but in protecting her own she can soon change and has more control than she appears to. Frecheville puts in a confident performance as the young Joshua who is thrown into the lion’s den with the Cody family and must choose whether to join their way of life or look to go his own way.

Animal Kingdom is a well-acted and gritty Australian drama that never lets up with the tension, an air of violence always floating in the air of the Cody household along with Janine’s cooking. A great cast carry the story along well and the conclusion is both surprising and at the same time completely apt as Joshua makes his final choice about his future.

Verdict: 4/5

(Film source: reviewer’s own copy)

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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