James Fracheville and Guy Pearce in Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom is the story of one crime ridden Australian family. It's fairly gripping and tense with several shocking plot points, but lacks a central character you can really root for or empathize with.
The movie opens with Josh, a teenage boy, facing the death of his mother by overdose. Not knowing what to do, he calls his estranged grandmother who welcomes him back into the family. Once settled in the family home, Josh learns that the family business is crime. His four uncles are all criminals of varying degrees who have an ongoing feud with the police, who are just as violent as they are. When one of the uncles is killed, the other brothers take their revenge. When the police come to investigate, it is young Josh whom they target, banking on his youth as a way of breaking him. This is one family though that you don't want to betray or even let them think that you might. It's up to Josh to decide whether or not he will stand with the family or against it.
While Guy Pearce is the most recognizable face to American audiences, it is Jacki Weaver whose performance is getting all the attention. As the matriarch to this fucked up family, Weaver does a great job. Knowing that she was nominated for an Oscar as I watched, I kept waiting for her to deliver a big "Oscar" scene, but she doesn't really have that one big scene. It's much more subtle than that. At first she just seems like everyone's sweet old grandmother, but by the end, she seems like the most dangerous person in a movie filled with violent psychopaths. You definitely don't want to get on her bad side.
Ben Mendelsohn also does a good job as Pope, the most violent and insane of the brothers. He's one of those people whom you never know what they're going to do, but you just know they're capable of anything. You despise him and want to see him get what's coming to him, but he also holds your attention whenever he's on the screen.
Sadly, the worst performance is by James Frecheville, who plays Josh, the lead character. Josh is very passive, but Frecheville lacks any charisma and makes Jash bland to the point of dullness. This is partly because of the way the character is written, but even given that, Frecheville is too unemotional and monotone in the part.
There are several violent twists in the film that I didn't see coming and I honestly didn't know how it was all going to end. At nearly two hours though, there is definitely room to tighten up the editing.
I was entertained by this movie and I wanted to see how it would end, but because of the lack of a central character I really cared about, I was never emotionally engaged by it and I certainly can't see myself ever wanting to watch it again.
Photos © Copyright Maximum Films (2010)