Animal Kingdom

When Josh’s Mom dies beside him of a heroin overdose while they watch some crap TV, he nonchalantly calls for an ambulance, and then for his estranged grandmother, since he’s a minor and has nowhere else to go. His mother has struggled to keep him away from her family, consisting of 3 dangerous, criminal uncles, but his grandmother has no such qualms, affectionately letting them use her home as their base of operations.

Very quickly Josh is sucked into this world, and it’s brutal. He’s just a kid, he doesn’t want to be2010_animal_kingdom_0093 there, he doesn’t have any criminal aspirations, but this is a rough world with few options. For better or worse, this is his pack, and as its weakest member, he knows it’s kill or be killed.

A well-intentioned cop tells him “Everything sits in the order somewhere. Things survive because they’re strong, and everything reaches an understanding. But not everything survives because it’s strong. Some creatures are weak, but they survive because they’re being protected by the strong for one reason or another. You may think that, because of the circles you move in or whatever, that you’re one of the strong creatures, but you’re not, you’re one of the weak ones.”

I think this was meant to scare him into testifying against his family, but it definitely makes him think. Humans have evolved to live in family units for protection and survival, but Josh’s family is full of beasts. They come from a place where your worth isn’t measured in blood or bond, but in how useful you are, or how much of a threat you are. Family means nothing – anyone can be sacrificed if it means advancing your own survival.

Ben Mendelsohn is chilling as the oldest and most feared uncle. He will make your skin crawl. You animal-kingdom-movie-review_240510041859have to admire this movie for airing its dirty laundry so unflinchingly, but that’s what makes it hard to enjoy in the traditional sense. You root for the kid of course, and despair that there’s no one to take his side, and become despondent at his lack of options. Director David Michod takes the slow-burn approach, creating a taut sense of tension that’s hard to shake. Jacki Weaver is SO good in this, so good. She’s the matriarch of this family, presenting different faces to cops and to criminals, and never ever breaking.

This movie is noir but not violent. It’s all about the creep. The fantastic score is all menace. It distinguishes itself among other crime family dysfunction in the genre by being realistic and quite matter-of-fact, and it’s the lack of explosiveness that shocks you in the end. A great film that makes for great commentary, but not something I’ve easily shaken off.

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22 thoughts on “Animal Kingdom

    1. Jay Post author

      I watched before Oscar season when Weaver was nominated but gave it a re-watch recently and am still blown away by it. It’s not just a good Australian movie, it’s a good movie, and I hope it’s found an audience overseas because it deserves it.

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    2. Jay Post author

      Thanks. I did check it out but couldn’t figure out how to comment on it. I agree about the song – gave me a whole new appreciation for it!

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  1. Jay Post author

    I feel that I struggled to give it an adequate review though. It’s very intense, but quietly so, with great performances that aren’t your typical Oscar-bait.

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  2. Jordan Dodd

    I’ll just echoe Salty’s comment, great to see some Aussie flicks getting some recognition 🙂

    I think this is easily one of our best, from both past and present. Edgerton has steadily been getting better for the last decade at least, he and Pearce in this are just great. Pearce seems to be fantastic in everything I watch him in

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    1. Jay Post author

      It can be hard for foreign cinema to even get heard over here. We’re in Canada, and it’s hard even for Canadian films to get noticed in the constant glut of Hollywood movies.

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      1. Jordan Dodd

        Australia is pretty much the same, our own flicks get lost the the Hollywood shuffle. We do get a lot of foreign cinema though – more than local stuff probably. But indie stuff rarely makes it here – ‘It Follows’ was a huge surprise for me.

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  3. indiefan20

    I liked this movie but I found it really hard to connect with the main character because he seemed unreadable to me. The ending really surprised me, and now I want to watch it again. Speaking of skin crawling, did you see the way that bitch kissed her sons :O

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, he really had little to no affect, he was fucked up well before he even got to his grandma’s, he’d built his walls and defended them, which i get. If you come from a world like that, you keep yourself in check. The ending got me too.
      And yes – let’s agree that open-mouth kissing your grown sons is just…wrong.

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      1. indiefan20

        I think I might understand the ending better if the rewatch the film. I have the feeling the plot was well-constructed and I missed something; i.e. I might get clues to the outcome if I watch it again. Hugo Weaving’s character was the one character I really liked, he seemed to be earnest about his police work and devoted to his family (I believe his daughter had Down’s Syndrome?) Speaking of implied Mom-cest, do you notice Jacki Weaver’s character has her hand on her homosexual son’s leg in the photo you chose? I believe she was sleeping with them, or, at the very least, had abused them as children.

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      2. Jay Post author

        She certainly handles them as lovers, and for a bunch of grown men, they feel unnaturally attached. That kind of pathology doesn’t usually strike out of the blue I guess.

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  4. indiefan20

    Jay, Have you seen “The Snowtown Murders?” It’s kind of similar in tone and very well-acted; based on the true story of ‘Australia’s Worst Serial Killer,’ John Bunting.

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  5. Pingback: Inside Out Film Festival | Assholes Watching Movies

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