I recently tweeted “Australians are currently making my favorite music and films.” The kind of work done in Animal Kingdom is what really made me make that declaration. I’m not a fan of heavy-handed directing, and this film provides a great example of how to get the most out of your characters and plot without throwing too much at the audience too soon. The acting is flawless, and Jacki Weaver who plays the ice cold mother of the crime family at the story’s center is even up for an Oscar. I’m constantly lauding the proper use of subtlety in all aspects of story, and this film does it masterfully.
A youngster is given an inside look at a criminal empire that also happens to be his family in this independent drama. Teenage Joshua Cody (James Frecheville) is suddenly on his own after his mother’s drug habit catches up with her, and he’s taken in by his grandmother Smurf (Jacki Weaver), usually regarded as the black sheep of the family. Joshua quickly learns Smurf’s reputation is well deserved; she and her four sons are members of a mid-level crime syndicate that operates out of her home in Melbourne. Baz (Joel Edgerton) looks after the money and is urging Smurf to move into something legit, Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) is a criminal jack-of-all-trades who never lets go of a grudge, Darren (Luke Ford) is an enforcer with an unfortunate weak streak, and Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) is a drug dealer who has become addicted to his own product. After tensions between the family and local cops come to a head, acts of murder and revenge erupt, and set into motion a deadly cycle amongst the animals of the Melbourne underworld.