Apparently the only thing Joshua’s heroin-addict mother ever did right was to shield him from her brothers, a vicious family of feral thugs dys-functioning in the Darwinian lower levels of the Melbourne underworld. The clan is presided over by the teen’s grandmother, a sweet-faced woman nicknamed “Mama Smurf” who’s ready and willing to eat her young for the sake of self-preservation. But his mom’s fatal overdose lands the hulking teenager right in the middle of this gang’s world of suspicion, greed and betrayal. Guy just wanted a home. Writer-director David Michod’s stylish and well-plotted debut feature isn’t perfect. The most glaring flaw is James Frecheville as the central character. I realize the part calls for a callow fellow, but this guy does a great imitation of a pine tree. Fortunately, this black hole is offset by some top Down-Under talent, including Guy Pearce (a virtuous cop), Ben Mendelsohn (the family’s main maniac) and Jacki Weaver. The latter’s performance, as grandma, is the one that will stay with you. Call it a grubby, brutally unsentimental Australian Goodfellas without the humor. Ominous is a good word. Lurking fear. Creepy. And absolutely absorbing.
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