It’s always hard to review a film with so much critical acclaim already. I can’t even take the easy road and completely disagree with the consensus as Animal Kingdom is an undeniably good film. A portrait of an Australian crime family told through the eyes of a formerly estranged teenage relative, Animal Kingdom is far from ground-breaking but always a film of high quality.
David Michôd is clearly a talented writer and as a director he focusses more on bringing out superb performances from his cast than flashy camera moves. Major kudos go to newcomer James Frecheville as the teenager in question, Guy Pearce as the police officer who tries to set him straight and of course Jacki Weaver as the family’s matriarch. Having highlighted those three it is important to note that there isn’t a bad performance in the film, everyone is on top form.
Animal Kingdom is a bleak drama, and with a sombre tone throughout you are constantly waiting for comic relief which never arrives. Every character is suitably complex and each so flawed it is hard to find anyone to sympathise with. Our protagonist J starts off relatable, but his descent into crime and violence takes him further and further from the audience’s grasp. With the combination of character drama and crime thriller you do get to know the criminals on-screen, but they remain far from sympathetic.
With a slow pace and unrelenting tense atmosphere, Animal Kingdom was a draining experience but well worth my time. A crime drama with depth. A high 4 stars.
The DVD for Animal Kingdom forgoes the all too familiar “featurettes”, normally a handful of three minute clips made up of interviews edited together to tell us nothing at all. Instead we have a 68 minute making-of which covers the production of the film from casting through to test screening and, while heavy on interview footage, was utterly engrossing. The DVD also includes cast and crew interviews and two commentaries but after the almost feature-length documentary I was spent.