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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Film - Animal Kingdom - directed by David Michôd

Star rating – 10/10

Imagine the brutal brilliance of The Godfather (parts 1 and 2 anyway) set in the dreary suburbs of present day Melbourne. Imagine the most wicked, terrifying grandma since the wolf tricked poor Little Red Riding Hood. And imagine if you can the most evil and corrupt set of cops, solicitors, barristers; mingling with a cold blooded clan who would think nothing of killing their own children if the need arose, and you have something close to the directorial debut from David Michôd, ‘Animal Kingdom’.

I can’t praise this film highly enough, and it rightly won a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Festival, the first Australian Film to be so rewarded. It is told from the point of view of Josh, the 17 year old played by James Frecheville whose mother dies of a heroin overdose while they are watching ‘Deal or No Deal’, and who carries on watching the TV as the ambulance people arrive to take her away. So it’s safe to say that Josh has issues. He has no one to turn to but the grandmother who was estranged from her daughter and grandson over some trivial argument years before. Bad move Josh, the battle for your soul commences.

He has stepped into a vipers nest of armed robbers, and the grande dame of the family who loves them all and doesn’t judge or try to control their wicked ways. Jacki Weaver is excellent as Smurf Cody, Josh’s grandma, whose boundaries with her adult sons are a little skewed, as we see her insisting on full lips kisses with them all in public on a regular basis. She fully deserved her best supporting actress Oscar nomination, and for my money at least, wins hands down over Melissa Leo in ‘The Fighter’

This film is menacing, with a fantastic use of music over the action to heighten the tension, which is uninterrupted and increases during the whole length of the film. There is a particularly fantastic use of ‘All Out of Love’ by Air Supply which has to be seen and heard to be appreciated. Josh doesn’t have much to say, but plays a vital part in the action when the police take one of the brothers out in broad daylight in preference to letting the justice system run its course. Revenge has to follow in the shape of the murder of two policemen lured to their bloody end by the brothers, with Josh implicated as he procured a stolen car as bait.

The acting is first class, with the four adult brothers all chillingly convincing in their brutal demeanour. Guy Pearce, is his usual brilliant self as Nathan Leckie, the police officer who tries to get Josh out of this terrible situation. Here he is sporting a rather appropriately tasteless moustache for the part.

The violence is more implied than gratuitous, although there is a considerable amount of actual violence involved too. And the suburban backdrop of supermarkets and barbeques make it all the more horrific and chilling. This is a thrilling, brutal, shocking and menacing film. It is different from, but nods to many great classics. It is funny in places, featuring the most original use of an art gallery in a film I have seen for a long time. And it is a simply horrifying tale of evil, mixed with a small amount of innocence, and not a lot of justice, except the very rough variety. I guarantee it will stay with you for hours and days after you have had the pleasure of seeing it.

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