|Directed by:||David Michôd|
|Written by:||David Michôd|
|Cast:||Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver|
|Studio:||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Genre:||Crime, Drama, Thriller|
The title "Animal Kingdom" plays quite a metaphorical role in David Michod's debut film, and it hits you as quick as when the title stretches across the screen. This urban crime drama is set in a kill or be killed world and only the strongest and smartest "animals" will survive. Unlike most other gangster flicks out there that glorify violence, Animal Kingdom only fires when necessary, and focus more on the struggle of being sucked into a life of chaos. All of the flash is removed; the family of crooks do not walk around in high-end suits, they don't spend countless nights "on the town," and they don't drive around in luxury cars. The sons of "Smurf" (Jacki Weaver) have comfortably fallen into a lifestyle that solely involves making a dishonest buck and it seems like that is all they know. Recruiting the young and weak "J" into their gang was almost too easy. With his mother gone and nothing to cling on to, this "cub" of the family really has no choice in being a part of it.
The seventeen year old boy, "J," faces more trouble in a matter of days than an average person faces in a lifetime. By the sound of his toneless voice, it seems as if any character he had, was sucked out of him from the opening scene to the final scene. You can assume this stems from the death of his mother or the fear of his life as his fate quickly becomes undetermined. From what we can tell, he doesn't have many friends, if any at all and clings to his girlfriend as his only escape from the unsettling home of his "new" family. "Fun" would be the polar opposite definition of the life he has quickly adapted to.
Jacki Weaver as the Grandma only plays a minor role in the film, but is a major part of how it plays out. She has the presence of a Hannibal Lector on screen and makes you uneasy with her out-of-the-norm relationship with her sons. Her big beady eyes and warm smile compliments her spine-chilling delivery of dialogue to steal every scene. She will tell the head of the academy that â€œyou have done some bad things sweetie" if she doesn't win best supporting actress.
Although not many are shown depicting it, the uncles of J are as tough as they come. The actors behind Pope, Darren, Craig, and Barry all give powerful performances and I would have liked to have seen more of some of them on screen. Guy Pearce, the detective in the film, seems to be the only good-hearted person in the film and delivers quite a speech to J during one of the few conversations they have. He simply tells him he as only survived because he is protected by the strong and he is weak because he is young. You can find a poster online with the entire quote if you don't want to wait for the film.
The camera lingers on characters and uses real tight settings to create a more realistic, almost documentary-like style. At times, you may feel like you are sitting on the couch in the living room with the family or you pulled a chair up right next to Guy Pearce's character in his office. I actually jumped more times during Animal Kingdom than any horror film I've seen this year due to the effectiveness of silence and angle of the camera. You don't see the action, you hear it. The film's pacing feels a lot like a rollercoaster does; there are plenty of scenes with a ton of dialogue as well as fast-paced chase scenes with a booming score.
This is one of the best films of year and has solidified a spot on my Top 10 of the year. (I can't see much bumping it off.) It's unpredictable, intense, and will throw your emotions for a loop. I loved the ending and I thought it was a perfect way to close out the film. I hope it releases to more theaters so I can catch it again; I think it earns a second viewing. (I don't really want to make another trip to the city.)