Animal Kingdom
Brutally unsentimental Australian Goodfellas
By: Don Morton | Jan 19, 2012 | Issue: 930 | 2 Comments | 3,094 views

© 2009 Screen Australia, Screen NSW, Film Victoria, The Premium Movie Partnership, Animal Kingdom Holdings Pty Limited and Porchlight Films Pty Limited.

Title in Japan: Animal Kingdom
Director: David Michôd
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, James Frecheville
Year: 2010
Country: Australia
Running Time: 113 min

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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  • Jeff W. Richards

    @Ian We have one person responsible for tying our online movie listings to their respective theaters, dates and times online who unfortunately has only a few short hours available to do so per week. So, yeah, sometimes it comes online a little late. Of course, all of this info is available in the print version of the magazine (which you can also download here: if you want to get out and see the movie—which is pretty good, by the way.
    Still, thanks for the feedback.

  • Ian

    Once again, sounds like a must-see movie. But………….no idea where or when it’s playing. Another example of why Metropolis is not as good as it thinks it is.