a review by Daniel Haynes
Animal Kingdom is an Australian fictional crime drama (loosely based on true events) based in modern Melbourne. The film follows 17 year old Joshua ‘Jay’ Cody (James Frecheville) as he is thrown headfirst into his relatives’ crime family after the death of his mother. The Cody family are being shadowed by the police, who suspect them of drug offences. When an all-out war begins between the police and the Cody’s, Jay has to decide where his loyalties lie, and how to survive in the wild situation he finds himself in.
Animal Kingdom is David Michôd’s debut as director/writer, which is surprising as the film is done with expertise and experience. The story is dark, intriguing and engaging from the first frame to the last. The character development was excellent, especially within the time constraints of a film. I particularly liked the use of real television shows and commentators to cement the story within Australian and Melbourne living.
The film boasts an excellent Australian cast, including Ben Mendelson, Dan Wyllie, Sullivan Stapleton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, Guy Pearce and Joel Edgerton. Jacki Weaver does an extraordinary job in her role as the Cody family’s mother hen, providing a chilling performance which highlights her character’s (Janine Cody) calculated, cold and cunning personality. Guy Pearce similarly plays his role as Senior Police Officer Nathan Leckie in a very convincing fashion.
Animal Kingdom boasts a superb score which captures the raw emotion of events unfolding on the screen. In the more thrilling scenes, the score does a fantastic job of adding suspense and conveying emotion.
This film is easily the best Australian film I have ever seen, and will become a staplepiece of classic/iconic Aussie drama for many years to come.
* * * * *
This article was previously published in Dark Matter issue 3, April 2011, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.