Animal Kingdom


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Animal Kingdom was a movie definitely outside what I would consider my “genre-zone”. I enjoy fantastical stories where non-fiction roams free. This flick is a grimy street crime story that focuses more on the criminal family’s point of view than the cops which was definitely an interesting experience.

Off the bat there are frightful images of what I assume to be crimes of the past displayed in photos, documentation, flickering on and off throughout the credits. Then the film opens to a scene where Joshua ‘J’ Cody (Super-newcomer James Frecheville) is sitting by his sleeping mother. Now, let me just interject, this kid Josh is apparently a heartless, soulless confused person, made that way because apparently he had a shitty childhood. How is that so obvious without being told? Well, a few seconds after you see the two on the couch, paramedics charge in as Josh keeps ogling at the TV watching Deal or No Deal.

“What has she taken?” a paramedic says to him. “Heroin” Josh shrugs all nonchalantly and from here, his mother passes away and he gets taken in by the crime-portion of his family that his mom was trying to keep him away from. He doesn’t really get pulled into a life of crime; he doesn’t turn into a monster, nothing like that. He actually joins the family while they are “on the run”; denying everything that involved with something labeled “The Armed Robbery Squad” that they never ever explain for some frustrating reason. They are not truly on the run though; they kind of just deny embroilment.

So, Janine Cody (Jacki Weaver), Josh’s Grandmother, watches over this “squad” which is comprised of four “uncles”…well, three for now.  Josh explains in an Australian voice over, how he is connected to each of the three uncles currently present in the house. It’s a sweet scene that is most likely meant to dull the sense for what is about to come and fuck up the happy feelings.   After his little spiel on his family and how “everyone feels safe around Barry Brown (Joel Edgerton)” he is sent to get a beer from the kitchen.  With his ever permanent blank expression, he shuffles slowly into the kitchen to grab a few bottles. Suddenly, Uncle Andrew (came right in through the back door, snuck in all sneaky) had decided that hiding in a hotel alone wasn’t making him feel safe enough so he came back to the house.

From the arrival of this bastard, Josh goes from living a shitty life to living in an insane world. Vigilante police are gunning his family down with no remorse and Josh’s motivation becomes one of pure survival. Forget the fact you have a girlfriend and a paranoid uncle. Oh did I mention, according to Janine, Uncle Andrew should start taking his PILLS again? The man is nuts, you have got to see how the rest of this films plays out, it’s ridiculous. I say “ridiculous”,of course, with a positive connotation.

The casting in this movie was great, the acting trailing behind just as enjoyable. There is something about this Joshua character that makes the audience think he is a complete idiot. I am not sure if it’s his four minute stare sessions at the most insensitive times, the fact he ends up with seven lines in the whole movie, how he ignores everybody’s suggestions, or how he involves the girlfriend with his crime bullshit.

I would be bothered by this moron’s behavior if it wasn’t the fact that his mother just over-dosed and his family is dropping like flies. The effect and purpose of the title “Animal Kingdom” is so obvious throughout the movie.  There were slow-motion scenes akin to discovery channel’s  “lion chases zebra to death” segments. You can see the feral expressions of the characters throughout the scenes. There is a certain part that I fell in love with. The police corner (someone) and they chase him out into “the bush” (what they call wilderness in Australia) and they shoot him down, they then pose like a weird lion pack (It’s odd, but I liked it) and the person they killed falls to the ground instantly. The next frame is focused on the dead person’s face with flies buzzing around. Just a carcass that is being processed in the circle of life; it was a great moment.

Something that was really “neat” was their use of sound in the movie. The slow-motion scenes (there are several and drag on a bit too much in my opinion) are filled with loud, border-line torturous ambient music. And the rest of the movie is pretty much just filled with dialogue, nothing too memorable regarding audio except the fact they should have just gone with a silent scene.

So, among what is probably my most disliked of genres, Animal Kingdom stands the hell out. It is a great movie filled with suspense, action, and unfamiliar faces. I know I probably say it a lot, but it was a great change of pace from the usual thing. Hell, maybe I will watch some other films I have avoided just because of this one.

One Response to “Animal Kingdom”

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