In this Aussie crime drama, a high school kid’s mother OD’s on heroin, forcing him into her estranged family of brutal criminals, presided over by his sunny grandmother. Like many teen boys, he is terse in speech and impassive in demeanor. As he is plunged into increasingly desperate situations, neither the characters nor the audience knows what he is thinking in every instance. This, along with his peril, is the key to the movie’s success.
James Frecheville does an excellent job of making us care about a character desperately trying not to speak or reveal his feelings. Jacki Weaver is great as Grandma Smurf, an impossibly upbeat gal who can effortlessly put out a contract on her own grandson. Ben Mendelsohn is excellent as the boy’s most psychopathic uncle. Guy Pearce, in a supporting role as a sympathetic cop, is also good.
Will the teen safely navigate through the maze of his murderous relations? Will evil prevail? We don’t know until the final scene…and then some questions remain.
Written and directed by David Michod, Animal Kingdom won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
The film depicts some close range gunshot deaths with the appropriate amount of splatter.