Animal Kingdom (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
January 17, 2011 by Dennis Amith
“Animal Kingdom” manages to grab your attention, pulling you in and then spitting you out as this is a pretty sharp but twisted thriller. No, there is no scenes with massive blood or bludgeoning but it’s the creepy mood that is created, how awesome the acting is for this film and the screenplay’s ability to keep the audience engaged. A magnificent film from the land down under!
© 2010 Animal Kingdom Holdings Pty Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Animal Kingdom
DURATION: 113 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English, Spanish, Portuguese, 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (For violence, drug content and pervasive language)
RELEASE DATE: January 18, 2011
Directed by David Michod
Screenplay by David Michod
Produced by Liz Watts
Executive Producer: Vincent Sheehan, Bec Smith
Line Producer: Libby Sharpe
Music by Antony Partos
Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw
Edited by Luke doolan
Casting by Kirsty McGregor
Production Design by Josephine Ford
Art Direction by Janie Parker
Costume Design by Cappi Ireland
James Frecheville as Joshua “J” Cody
Ben Mendelsohn as Andrew “Pope” Cody
Joel Edgerton as Barry Brown
Guy Pearce as Leckie
Luke Ford as Darren Cody
Jackie Weaver as Janine Cody
Sullivan Stapleton as Craig Cody
Dan Wylie as Ezra White
Anthony Hayes as Det. Justin Norris
Laura Wheelwright as Nicky Henry
Mirrah Foulkes as Catherine Brown
Justin Rosniak as Det. Randall Roache
Susan Prior as Alicia Henry
Clayton Jacobsen as Gus Emery
Anna Lise Phillips as Justine Hopper
Evil is relative in this chilling tale of betrayal and blood starring Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn and Joel Edgerton. When his mother dies from a overdose, 17-year-old Josh Cody (James Frecheville) is taken in by his grandmother (Jacki Weaver) and uncles, the most notorious criminal gang in the city. So when tensions between the Codys and a squad of renegade cops land him at the center of a cold-blooded murder plot, Josh is forced to choose between his treacherous family and the lawless police in this shattering thriller.
In 1988, Melbourne, Australia watched the news as the Pettingill family and police clashed. The Pettingill family were suspected of drug trafficking, arms dealing and armed robberies and something reminiscent of America’s gangs where one gets killed and the gang gets their revenge by killing one from the opposite side, in this case, two police officers were slain.
It was an infamous case and inspired the Australian film “Animal Kingdom” written and directed by David Michod.
“Animal Kingdom” begins with a shot of a young Joshua “J” Cody (played by James Frecheville) waiting for the paramedics to arrive and pick up his mother who has overdosed on heroine. J’s mother has died and because he is a young teenager, he has no choice but to move in with his estranged grandmother Janine “Smurf” Cody (played by Jacki Weaver).
Jacki is the matriarch of Melbourne’s notorious crime family who is mother to the deranged Andrew “Pope” Cody (played by Ben Mendelsohn) who is hiding from detectives. Meanwhile, Craig Cody (played by Sullivan Stapleton) is a paranoid man who is successful with drug deals. The youngest brother Darren Cody (played by Luke Ford) wants to keep to himself and not get involved but because his older brothers are criminals, he has no choice but to follow. And together they work with Pope’s best friend Barry “Baz” Brown (played by Joel Edgerton) who is more of the strategist.
But the police are on their tale and some have even camped out in front of Baz’s house.
Meanwhile, J observes his new family and although he likes everyone, he senses something off with his older uncle “Pope” especially how he eyes his girlfriend. In fact, you sense that the other brothers, especially Darren senses something unusual with “Pope”.
One day as J accompanies his Uncle Craig to meet with a crooked policeman, they learn that there is nothing he can do to help the family as the police are pretty much on to the family. When Craig meets up with the family, they decide they need to stop their criminal activity.
The next morning, Baz and Pope meet at a supermarket and Baz tells “Pope” no more armed robberies, it’s probably best to play the stock market and get out of trouble as they can’t do anything because they are being followed.
When Baz gets to his car, Baz greets the police but one of them says he has a gun (which he doesn’t) and Baz is shot dead by the renegade police.
Pope sees this all happen and now upset, he tells the family of what happened. The family now wants revenge for Baz’s death and Pope asks the young J to steal a white car for them. J doesn’t know what’s going on but when he gets the car for them, Pope, Craig and Darren unleash their plan. J is told to stay at Darren’s apartment and not leave.
Two young police officers are notified by a woman living in the neighborhood that a car that has been broken into is right in the middle of the street. As the police go to check on it, they are gun down by the Cody brothers.
When J wakes up he sees Darren stressing out and trying to wash off his shoes. When J arrives back home, he sees his uncle Pope but then a swat team comes and arrests both of them.
As the Cody family is suspected of killing the two police officers, J has no idea what the heck is going on until the police tell him that two officers were gunned down and he wants to know where J was that night and if he knew where his uncles were.
While the brothers are questioned and released, J is still being held and this scares the Cody Brothers. What if J rats them out?
Craig Cody starts to get paranoid and tries to find a place to hide but he knows that wherever he goes, the police are sure to follow. And the next thing you know, he ends up in a losing gunfight with the police and is killed.
Meanwhile, the matriarch of the family, Janine “Smurf” Cody wants everyone to listen to Ezra White (played by Dan Wylie), the family lawyer. And while J’s gone and is out with his girlfriend, he doesn’t know the magnitude of what is actually happening with the brothers and their level of paranoia after the death of Baz and Craig. Ezra tells them that because J is young, he will talk and because he dates a girl and boyfriends and girlfriends talk about everything, she can talk.
And when investigator Nathan Leckie (played by Guy Pearce ) starts coming over to meet with J (trying to get details on the family), “Pope” starts to become paranoid of J and takes Ezra’s advice. Maybe both J and his girlfriend must be silenced.
And to make things worse, Grandma Cody doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her boys, so she wants J dead as well.
For young J, he doesn’t understand the magnitude of this case and what is happening with both sides. Investigator Leckie takes J to a safehouse and tells him that he must be protected from his family (unaware that members of his own police force have been working with the Cody family), but even for J…can he trust the police? Or should he put his trust in his grandmother? Which side will he go to for support?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Animal Kingdom” is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen and is presented in English, Spanish, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. It’s important to note that if you want the best video and audio presentation of this film, “Animal Kingdom” is also available on Blu-ray. But for the DVD release, picture quality was very good and the soundtrack is front and center channel driven but there are some scenes which you get gunshots and a car crash and ambiance through the surround channels.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Spanish and Portuguese.
“Animal Kingdom” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by director David Michod.
- The Making of Animal Kingdom – (15:28) Starz Studios behind-the-scenes of “Animal Kingdom”. Interviews with director David Michod and the cast.
- Q&A with Director David Michod and Actors Jacki Weaver and James Frecheville – (33:52) Film Independent interviews teh cast of “Animal Kingdom” plus the Q&A session after the screening.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:04) The original theatrical trailer for “Animal Kingdom”.
- Animal Kingdom Soundtrack – Text information on the “Animal Kingdom” soundtrack.
“Animal Kingdom” is an entertaining, creepy psychological crime drama.
James Frecheville is fantastic as the teen Joshua “J” Cody and although he may look older, he’s just a kid and he just wants to live a normal life. Unfortunately, after his mother’s death, he ends up having to live with the most notorious crime family in Melbourne and even worse, he is now expected to play a part in some of their criminal schemes.
What is amazing with Frecheville’s acting is that it’s so emotionless in some ways. You don’t know which side he will be going to and his emotions doesn’t show any happiness of whether he really enjoys living with the Cody’s or if he should believe the police.
Ben Mendelsohn definitely delivers as the creepy Andrew “Pope” Cody. We see Janine Cody trying to get her son to take his medication but there is something uneasy about this character. He’ll just get into the face of people and keep telling them “if you need someone to talk to, you’ll talk to me right?” but the look in his eyes when he says it, and seeing the uneasiness of the people he’s telling it to, it makes you wonder how twisted is this character? And we eventually get to see that creepiness come out in full force later in the movie.
But then we get to see the loving mother/grandmother Janine “Smurf” Cody played by Jackie Weaver. She seems sweet and innocent and throughout the film, you get scenes which catch your attention but dismiss it, such as when she asks for a kiss from each of her sons and grandsons. Especially how she kisses her son Craig, long kisses to lips and at first you think, “that’s a bit wrong” but then you dismiss it because maybe some families are like that. Who knows? But then you start to see the diabolical side of the family matriarch as she begins to show how much of a player she is in the crime family and how far she will go. Needless to say, I was shocked and surprised by the transformation of her character throughout the film.
“Animal Kingdom” manages to grab your attention, pulling you in and then spitting you out as this is a pretty sharp but twisted thriller. No, there is no scenes with massive blood or bludgeoning but it’s the creepy mood that is created, how awesome the acting is for this film and the screenplay’s ability to keep the audience engaged.
The Sony Pictures Classics DVD release is pretty solid but as mentioned earlier, if you want this film in the best PQ and AQ as possible, definitely go for the Blu-ray release.
Otherwise, “Animal Kingdom” is a fantastic psychological crime drama from the land down under!
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