Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Animal Kingdom DVD review

Clammier than Ryan Giggs’ hands when his lawyer calls, this Australian crime drama has emphatically placed one foot in the cult-classic section of our collective cinematic heart. After being taken into care by his aunt, youngster J (James Frecheville) inadvertently finds himself bang in the middle of tense battle for survival among the notorious Cody crime family – with each of his cousins locked in their own particular struggle with grim fate.

Right from the word go, Animal Kingdom hits homes with its distinct take on the crime genre, less concerned with the spoils of felony, more with the family’s quest to maintain their status under unsurmountable pressure – the police are arguably even more arseholy and ruthless than they are, and the crooks' long-term prospects are starting to look increasingly grim. The siege mentality that springs from this persecution fuels a gloriously ironic domesticity, soap-esque, that undercuts much of the bravado – two of the gang discuss getting proper jobs while picking up milk at the supermarket, while the deceptively cruel matriarch Smurf directs traffic from the kitchen. The pecking order that gives this film its title also plays itself out, with the weakest through to the strongest asserting their place in the food chain – none more than the feral Pope, thanks to a kettle-boiling performance from Ben Mendelsohn, whose sullen façade struggles to contain his primal scumminess, and Jacki Weaver’s Smurf, whose dark and twisted version of maternal instincts earned the Oscar nod that helped firm up Animal Kingdom’s status. Like A Prophet before it, Animal Kingdom plonks J into this territorial domain, letting his survival instincts lead the narrative.

As J starts to find his place, the consequences begin to stack up and the tight-knit bonds begin to unravel. Guy Pearce’s Detective Leckie spots what remains of the old J and sees a chance to bring the family down – the youngster has both his and his family’s fates in his hands, and the consequences of his actions have huge consequences for all involved.

Tight, tense, sweaty, gripping and addictive, Animal Kingdom is excellent from start to finish. Flip to the extras and you’ll find the usual suspects: theatrical trailer and director interviews. All told, there’s no reason for you not to buy it.

Animal Kingdom is out now on DVD and Blu-ray

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