Thursday 24 February 2011

Animal Kingdom

Let's not fanny about here, Animal Kingdom is the best film I've seen this year and probably better than anything I saw last year. In fact the last time I remember a film grabbing me by the balls like this and refusing to let go for two hours of slow-burning tension was Let The Right One In nearly two years ago, and it's a good job there was such a long gap between the two films because my balls had only just recovered. Now I'm back to typing while standing up.

The poster's not too shabby either, even if it is almost collapsing under the weight of gushing quotery:
Hey, if Harper's Bazaar says it's "Unmissable", you better listen up.

An Australian crime drama about a young man inadvertently but unavoidably caught up in the self-destructive maelstrom of a family of crooks, Animal Kingdom is essentially The Godfather with Aussie chavs. Like Coppola's masterpiece, the hierarchy within the family is constantly in flux, and the central character must find his place within it while it slowly consumes him from inside. Only in this film they have more barbies.

David Michôd directs his first feature from his own flawless script with no fuss or in-your-face bravado but with absolute respect for an intelligent audience and an eye for poignant minutiae - a silhouetted bracelet hanging from a limp wrist here, an affectionately straightened collar there - all of which carry multiple, often menacing, meanings. Meanwhile the story keeps you guessing at every turn; it's a rare thing to find a crime film so completely unpredictable without veering into silliness and self-parody, COUGHguyritchieCOUGH.
The uniformly fantastic cast of mostly unknowns have no place being this good. Guy Pearce is the only real "name", and it's not stunt casting. His character requires the subtlety and familiarity he brings, but by no means is he the star. It's difficult to say who is: Jacki Weaver's Oscar-nominated turn as the brassy matriarch is both moving and monstrous, while newcomer James Frecheville, as the 17-year-old protagonist, is so restrained he could be sleepwalking - which makes the final act all the more nail-biting since it's impossible to guess what his motives or intentions are. But it's Ben Mendelsohn as the blackest sheep in a family of black sheep who stays with you after the credits, his performance intimidating and unnerving without resorting to showboating.
Animal Kingdom has taken about nine months since its Australian release to travel the ten thousand or so miles to the UK, but believe me when I say it's been worth the wait. As Australian exports go, it even almost makes up for Dannii Minogue.



  1. I live in Australia and have never even heard of this film until now. God the Aussies are normally so good at self-promotion, how did they miss this one? Thanks for the heads-up, will get the DVD tomorrow!

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  3. I daily walk past a poster for this at the train station at the moment. The gun on the arm of the 'G' has annoyed me so much I was pre-disposed to not wanting to see the film, but this review has swung me round. Thank you sir.

  4. I've seen the trailer a few times, and I have to say the prospect of yet another film about thuggish young men being thuggish doesn't pique my interest much.

    Also, for a while I had it confused with Animals United.

  5. Best film of the year so far! Was on the edge of my seat for such a long time, my seat had to take a fucking nap!

  6. It is Neighbours on steroids plus a Hawaiian Shirt. The shirts did Al Pacino (Scarface 1983), Frank Sinatra (From Here To Eternity 1953)& Elvis Presley (Blue Hawaii 1961) no harm and soaps are often very well made. Coronation Street is Ken Loach with humour.

    Yes, I like the idea of Animal Kingdom. I'll put it on my must see list.

  7. As usual, Mr Suit is dead right. Animal Kingdom is the awesomeness. It's one of the best Aussie films in the past few years, up there with The Square, Mary & Max, Kenny and The Proposition. Thanks for being part of our occasionally good cinematic produce to the attention of the interwebs.

  8. I'm an aussie now living in the UK. I saw this film a few months ago and loved it. It reminded me of how well we can do realistic underplayed cinema in Australia, far more creepy gang cinema than anything done by hollywood on an overblown budget.

  9. After a promising start I realised this was just going to be a modern day Ozfather. It was too downplayed which, unfortunately, made it very dull. There were a few moments of great suspense and some interesting characters but it all seemed a bit ITV-Sunday-Drama to me