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.
(Film source: reviewer’s own copy)
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