Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Animal Kingdom

           The film opens with a television game show being regarded by a seventeen year old boy as he sits next to his slumped over mother. As the paramedics arrive, he calmly informs them that she has overdosed on heroin. He then continues watching the TV while the men unsuccessfully try to revive his mother. This casual attitude gives us an idea of the people who will populate the film.
            Soon the boy is taken in by his Grandma, a short and spunky woman not dissimilar to Ma Barker as she houses her three criminal sons and their associate. Although she died a junkie, these were the people that the boy’s mother had sheltered from him for his entire life. Now he has been introduced to their gang, or pack if you will. Soon he will be entangled in their criminal web and immersed in more danger than anyone could have imagined.
           Several abrubt killings will take place and the teen, played with believability by fresh faced James Frecheville, will stand at the center of the film, caught between loyalty to his criminal family and responsibility to the law. Guy Pearce convincingly plays the detective who heads the case and offers a way out to the young man. 
Animal Kingdom is an Australian export and the debut film from David Michod. It is based on famous events that occurred in Melbourne in 1988, which the film wisely decides to not tell us. It is a gritty film containing despicable characters and their reprehensible acts. I thought the film was intriguing, but lacked characterization and proper pacing. I also did not buy into certain plot developments and character decisions that take place towards the end of the film. 
Still, many scenes come off with force and it is engaging throughout its duration. Also, one scene involving a character’s realization and a subsequent chase is handled with perfection, in a manner which generates chills. Despite its flaws, Animal Kingdom is an honest depiction of the criminal lifestyle and worth seeking out. It is a good film for a first time director, and the kind of film that makes you want to see what else the director will do.