Directed by David Michôd
Sleek cinematography and a tremendous cast do little to hide the flaws of Animal Kingdom, a mostly by-the-numbers crime thriller that offers a few pleasant surprises and a lot of dead space. After the death of his mother, seventeen-year-old Josh moves into his grandmother’s home where he is introduced as the youngest member of one of Australia’s leading crime families. The film is focused almost entirely on the self-destructive qualities of the criminal mind, and the inevitable tragic fate awaiting the members of the Cody family.
Josh acts as the audience’s guide through this world, as an outsider, he is not privy to the inner dealings or emotional implications that criminality entails. This allows a lot of explanation as to who is who, and why they act the way they do but the conclusions and explanations are innately superficial. This is particularly true during the film’s first act where an overbearing, redundant and simply uninteresting voice-over painfully explains every possible detail of the family’s dynamic,though of course through rose -colored glasses. As problematic as this narrative choice is, it is also largely negated in the film’s third act with very poor results. Josh becomes directly involved in the family dealings, and it makes for a lot of awkward “twists.” The film carefully avoids having too much insight, preferring to focus on empty stylistic turns, and how “gritty” it can be.
That being said, this film will surely find an audience, especially among dedicated followers of crime films. Though it takes few risks it is at the very least competent, and the cast, especially Jacki Weaver as the old-school semi-incestuous family matriarch, is incredible. It does not successfully explore the ideas it presents, but it nonetheless shows promise for a first-time filmmaker.