Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Animal Kingdom (Rhoades)

“Animal Kingdom” Is Ferocious Crime Drama
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Once I was shooting a photo essay of zoo animals. Not having a telephoto lens with me, I asked the zookeeper if there was any way I could get closer to the denizens of the lion pits. Sure, he said, ushering me through a series of tunnels, eventually leading me into a cage occupied by a snarling 400-pound jungle cat.

Get your shot, he said, tossing the big cat a hunk of meat and waving him back with a broomstick.

You bet I was nervous. Jungle animals can’t help being dangerous.
Criminals are like jungle creatures, according to “Animal Kingdom,” the Australian crime thriller that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

The story is narrated by 17-year-old J Cody (newcomer James Frecheville). J goes to live with his grandmother after his mum OD’s. But steely-eyed, lion-maned Smurf Cody (Jacki Weaver) is no sweet little old granny. She’s a latter-day Ma Barker, heading a vicious crime family in the suburbs of Melbourne.

Her gang consists of three miscreant sons – baby-faced Darren (Luke Ford), tattooed Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and half-crazy Pope (Ben Mendelsohn). She loves her boys, to the point that her motherly kisses linger a little too long for comfort.
The clan’s warfare with the police has escalated to a new level of violence due to the shooting of Baz (Joel Edgerton), a trigger-happy sociopath who was a family friend.

Nathan Leckie (Guy Pearce) is a sergeant assigned to Melbourne’s armed robbery squad. He thinks J is the weak link, a punk he can break with his relentless interrogation. Maybe, maybe not.

This neo-noir film builds a sense of fear and dread with incisive characterizations rather than relying on car chases and non-stop gun battles.

Some moviegoers have described it as Australia’s answer to “Goodfellas.” But first-time writer-director David Michôdis is no Scorsese – and “Animal Kingdom” has some rough spots. Yet it doesn’t fail to deliver a frightening portrait of criminal life.

Well titled, “Animal Kingdom” turns Melbourne into a jungle-like setting where Smurf Cody watches over her ferocious brood like a mama lion. But as J observes, “Crooks always come undone, always, one way or another.”

Beware, keep your hands behind the bars.
[from Solares Hill]

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