The record is broken and it keeps fucking repeating itself, dear reader, and the bit of song that is driving me mad goes like this: “The best crime flicks today are from overseas.” The latest example, Animal Kingdom, comes from Australia, a country that previously this year gave us the undeniably awesome The Square. Shit, some of the dudes (part of a film company known as Blue Tongue) from The Square also had a hand in making Animal Kingdom the burly beast that it is. On the strength of these two offerings and the (hopefully kick ass) upcoming feature Hesher, here’s hoping Blue Tongue keeps cranking out quality shit like this for years to come.
Animal Kingdom opens with Melbourne teenager Josh Cody’s mom dead of a heroin overdose. Faced with few options, J is forced to call his grandmother, turning shit into an out-of-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire sort of situation for the kid. His grandma is mother to a dangerous crew of armed bank robbers that includes the sociopathic Pope, the temperamental Craig, their reluctant little brother Darren, and family friend Barry Brown (Joel Edgerton from The Square). Initially things seem solid, yeah, they’re criminals but good blokes all around, seems like. Naturally, it isn’t long before a something horrible happens to the family and the reasons for J’s mother’s abandonment of her family become extremely fucking clear as their violent natures surface.
I honestly don’t want to get into much more of the plot than I already have in that vague-as-shit summary because there are plenty of shocks (I truly don’t want to spoil the fantastic first act twist) in this film that hit hard. Thing is, the shocks don’t come from lame-ass twists (“you mean that guy was his father all along?!”) but from how dark this movie is willing to go. The deaths in this one hurt and the tension is suffocating, and you better believe the Nerd wouldn’t have it any other way.
Writer-director David Michod wisely keeps the directorial flourishes to a minimum, wisely letting his fantastic cast and script do the heavy-lifting. There’s some voice-over early in the film that is quickly done away with once J has given us a quick intro to all his new family members. Some like to bitch about the over-use of voice-over in crime films (past and present people have bitched about it, really) like they just got out of a McKee seminar but here I thought it was perfectly done – J just gives us a heads up on what the family is up to and then backs out. Cliches aren’t a bad thing if handled intelligently, dear reader.
From top to fucking bottom this is one of the best experiences I’ve had in a theater all year. Animal Kingdom is heart-breaking, intense, exciting, and – no bullshit – had a refreshingly surprising last act. You may think you have an idea of how this type of story will end up, but I assure you, dear reader: you don’t know shit. Actually, if you have read nothing about the film other than my review, you barely even know what the fucking movie is about so how could you even venture a guess, right? If that’s the boat you’re in, keep it that way and just fucking see Animal Kingdom already. I am seriously fucking high off this film and I don’t want to ever come down.