Now Showing: Animal Kingdom

29 Jun


The characters may be dressed in Quicksilver and Bonds but the story world of Animal Kingdom should be instantly familiar to fans of classic gangster cinema. As Pope(Ben Mendelson) announces in the films final scene “It’s a crazy world” in which the strong destroy the weak and most of the characters must carry their balls in a wheelbarrow if they want to survive.  Animal Kingdom is Scarface in moccasins, Miami beach comes to Norflanz.

After the death of his mother from an overdose, 17-year-old Josh (James Frecheville) has nowhere to go but the home of his Grandmother (Jacki Weaver) and her family of criminals.  Loosely based on the 1988 Walsh st murders in which two policeman were gunned down in a quiet street in South Yarra, first time writer and director David Michod clearly knows something about how to tell a good story and Animal Kingdom is gripping from the get go. Ben Mendelsohn is terrifying as the sociopathic Pope and Guy Pearce’s performance as the only honest cop is so impressive his moustache deserves its own union card. However its Jackie Weaver’s performance as the criminal matriarch behind the lovable tuckshop lady smile that is the real revelation.

Pearce's award winning moustache.

Despite its bleak subject matter and ultimately nihilistic world view there are touches of humor as well and even the sociopathic Pope has his charismatic moments reminiscent of Mendelsohn’s performance in Idiot Box.  The use of Air Supply’s “Im all out of love” is genius, simultaneously schmaltzy and dreamy, it’s a beautiful and sad moment reminiscent of 3am at a near empty Diner along the Hume.

Usually when I’m enjoying a movie I’m too busy happily shovelling popcorn into my mouth, to bother the people next to me. But when I saw the Seven-Eleven on the corner of Separation St and Victoria Rd in this film I wanted to shout to the person next to me “That’s MY seven –eleven! I know that place. I grew up around the corner”  This is what it must be like for people in New York movie theaters all the time which makes me wonder how they ever review films at all over there because it’s a little hard to maintain your critical faculty when during every other scene you’re wondering “Wait, is that Ivanhoe or Northcote they’re filming in?(…)  Isn’t that the Safeway on Smith St? (…) I recognise that Icebox!” The fact that people who live in New York are so used to this experience must be their secret for being so damn cool all the time

Beyond it’s obvious charm for people with a postcode beginning in 307,  Animal Kingdom is dripping in universal appeal and it will be interesting to see its response at the American box office when it’s released there in August.  C’mon Aussie C’mon, I say.

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