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MOVIE REVIEW: Animal Kingdom

An Aussie indie about cops, with great performances

Animal Kingdom: Rates a B-.
Courtesy photo

Animal Kingdom is a good little picture out of Australia, that has a few things going against it.

A lot of people don’t make it out to the theaters that show the foreign and indie films. And, with a title like Animal Kingdom, people might get the wrong impression.

This is a movie about criminals and the cops that try to catch them.

Guy Pearce has a great role as a cop, who is mistakenly called a “caring police officer” in some reviews. To me, he may seem like he cares about this young boy that is caught in a weird predicament with his crazy family. I got the impression that he merely cared about proving a case, not helping a young man leave this life of crime. We do see him with his family and as he talks to other officers, and know he’s not a bad cop. I just wouldn’t go so far to say he cares about the boy.

That 17-year-old kid pulls out an amazing performance, as does the rest of the cast.

The grandmother (Jacki Weaver) better get a supporting actress nomination or there’s no justice in the world.

Joel Edgerton, who created such a splash as the arsonist in The Square earlier this year (which is not only a better film, it’s still my second favorite movie of the year), has a nice role in this.

There’s a scene where he’s teaching the boy how to properly wash his hands in a bathroom that’s classic. His facial expressions remind me of a young Richard Gere, who in a bathroom explains to his drunken dad why he’s joining the Air Force in An Officer and a Gentleman.

Oh, and let’s not forget the crazy uncle (Ben Mendelsohn). It’s so refreshing when a movie creates a crazy character that has this quiet nuttiness. Sure, it’s a blast when Joe Pesci is shooting peoples feet or asking “Do you think I’m funny?” in Goodfellas. It’s just a much more interesting approach to know that there’s a guy capable of very bad things, and he’s just looking at you. He might have a slight twitch, or blink a few too many times.

There’s a scene in this where he questions hisson's sexuality in perhaps the wittiest bit of dialogue I’ve seen in some time.

There’s a later scene when we know he’s after somebody, and you are on the edge of the seat in a way that only a good filmmaker can pull off.

A garage door opens, and you wonder if he’s going to be there. The car pulls out of a drive-way, and you wonder if he’ll show up. To say anymore would ruin a thrilling scene.

I thought the film dragged a little in the last half hour, and it got a bit far fetched. But for a first film by writer/director David Michod, I was very pleasantly surprised.

It might not be at the theaters much longer, so go find it. And rent The Square.

I’m giving this a B-.