Animal Kingdom is an astounding, brooding and wonderfully measured Australian crime drama marking the directorial debut of writer-director David Michod.
The film centres on 17-year-old Joshua (James Frecheville) as he is thrown into the deep end forced to move in with his grandmother, Smurf (Jacki Weaver), and her three sons, Pope (Ben Mendelsohn), Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and Darren (Luke Ford).
Joshua, or J as he’s referred to, is inevitably implicated into the Cody families nasty, nihilistic crime syndicate. His initiation itself is one of the most powerful scenes of the film, perfectly shot and illustrated, deepening the grip the film so expertly implants over the viewers.
Michod invites the audience into the Cody household, opening viewers’ eyes to a world of gritty, nasty and terrifyingly nerve-wracking violence. It’s a very powerful depiction, one that’s not been so masterfully achieved since Goodfellas or Scarface.
Natural, low-key lighting and obtrusive, yet restrained camera angles help to build, and maintain, the overall intensity and realistic nature of the film, never letting it slip into the artificial feel of most modern-day Hollywood crime films.
Each actor, Joel Edgerton and Guy Pearce in particular, provides a taut, emotive performance, effectively playing off one another to establish Animal Kingdom as a truly harrowing portrayal of underbelly life, one that deserves to be recognised for many years to come.