Animal Kingdom

A stellar cast (in Aussie terms, at least), including Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton and Jackie Weaver, features in writer/director David Michôd's debut feature film which has already found success picking up the World Cinema Jury prize at this years Sundance Film Festival. The film couldn't be better placed in time, trading on the Victorian organised crime scene made fashionable by the very successful Underbelly television series. The fortuitous (for this film, at least, if not the wider community) recent death in prison of underworld kingpin, Carl Williams, can only further bolster this films fortunes; fortunes which are well deserved!

Animal Kingdom tells the story of a 17-year-old lad, Josh (James Frecheville), who has the unfortunate destiny of being adopted into his wider family of organised crime after the death of his mother. A true fish out of water, Josh attempts to negotiate the obligatory nefarious criminal loyalties imposed on him by his extended family whilst secretly wanting to live just a normal life free from corruption.

The film is riveting from start to finish. The ominous imagery of armed hold-ups which plays over the opening credits creates a suitable tone for the events to come, forecasting the subtle menace and tension which subverts the film as a whole. The outstanding performances of the capable cast maintains the tension throughout. Of particular note is Jackie Weaver as the criminal matriarch; her schizophrenic switching between loving mother and ruthless viper is utterly convincing.

David Michôd has chiseled out a worthy niche in the Australian cinematic canon with Animal Kingdom, pegging himself as a filmmaker to watch. We eagerly await his next venture.
Stuart Jamiesom

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