Animal Kingdom: A Crime Story (2010)

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Crime, Drama, Thriller

Shielded from the dangerous lives of his family, Joshua (J) finds himself in the middle of the lies, violence and drug trafficking after his mother overdoses on heroin. With nowhere else to go, he moves in with his grandmother and brothers. Quickly, he gets sucked into the criminal activities but struggles with connecting with the dangerous and illegal lifestyle. As the Australian police continue to close in on the family, Detective Leckie realizes that J does not exactly belong and tries to both protect and save him from his family’s evils.

Starring: James Frecheville (Joshua “J” Cody), Jacki Weaver (Janine “Smurf” Cody), Luke Ford (Darren Cody), Sullivan Stapleton (Craig Cody), Mirrah Foulkes (Catherine Brown)

The story follows J, played by James Frecheville. He maintains a fairly solemn and brooding attitude, even in moments where his family forces him into fairly violent acts. Throughout the movie, you see him play a young man quietly suffering as his world continues to crumble around him. He does a great job showing how the influence of conflicting morals can continue to challenge someone whose life has yet to truly begin. Ben Mendelson, who brings life to the more menacing uncle of the three (“Pope”), focuses on the darkest sides of a criminal life. Exhibiting a pure drive for supremacy, he gives the role a strong lack of sanity and almost a primal need to maintain power and control. Out of all of the performances, the most impressive is by Janine “Smurf” Cody, played by Jacki Weaver. While you think she is more innocent and follows the direction of Pope, there is an odd sense of mystery to how much control she has over the family. While Pope’s role is much more straightforward, Weaver highlights the more manipulative side of criminal life.

David Michod directs this complicated view of criminal life. While the brothers see drug trafficking as a way to earn money and power, there is actually an primitive structure to the dynamics directly within the family. Janine seems to be sweet and weak but truly runs the show and does everything to protect her boys. Pope maintains a strong aggressive presence in order to maintain the respect and control over his brothers. Then you come across Joshua. His role in the movie is complicated, as his girlfriend rejects but is also drawn to the dysfunctional family and Leckie acts as a positive outside representation of how he could allow himself to be saved. While the life of crime is dangerous, trying to leave the family behind seems to be just as bad. And with so much violence surrounding him and so much loss and pain, Joshua’s quiet suffering seems to push him toward a surprising but almost satisfying ending.

While the movie started a little slow, you are quickly pulled into a spiral of violence, pain and tough choices. This was a very entertaining representation of a very dangerous lifestyle.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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