Sunday, August 22, 2010

Animal Kingdom

Writer/director David Michod's first feature film is a nasty piece of business imported from Australia. Guy Pearce is the only "name" actor American audiences will recognize but you will not soon forget the rest of this cast.

This contemporary crime drama centers around the Cody family. The film's narrator is 17 year old grandson, J Cody, who comes to live with his grandmother and three uncles after a shocking opening scene. J is played by James Frecheville who, in his film debut, leaves quite an impact. Jackie Weaver plays grandmother Janine, the matriarch of this criminal brood. She resides over her family like the lioness analogy of the film's title. Her scenes late in the film are especially chilling.

All of Janine's sons are also well cast and make a very scary lot, especially "Pope", the oldest, played by Ben Mendlesohn. Mr. Pearce plays the lead detective trying to bring the whole family to justice. He knows J is minimally involved in their dirty deeds and tries to turn him against his family.

Mr. Michod shows confidence behind the camera and builds his suspense well. Violence is hovering on the edge of almost every scene but credit Mr. Michod for creating the mood and keeping the actual violence to a minimum (graphic though when it does happen). I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

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