The Animal Kingdom of the title is the criminal underground of 1980’s Melbourne where the police have caged the Cody family by constant surveillance. Once prolific bank robbers, they are an endangered species in need of alternatives. Word has it that the cops, frustrated by lack of evidence, intend to expedite natural selection and take matters into their own hands. This is a lawless world where paranoia and desperation determine actions in a vicious cycle of absolute malice.
Add to the mix a young relative, Joshua, one of life’s innocents, who comes to stay when his mother dies of a heroin overdose. It is taken as read that Joshua, or J to his few friends, will join the gang but there is no Goodfellows style rising amongst the ranks here. Joshua, humble and unassuming, is content to watch silently from the sidelines although there is no sense that he is doing anything other than killing time. On the odd occasion that he does speak, there is a literal honesty that reveals a telling vulnerability; one that both sides will look to exploit in the fierce battle for supremacy.
Things come to a head when renegade cops bump off friend of the family and the brains of the operation, Barry. The family’s revenge is swift and explosive in a recreation of a real life incident in eighties Melbourne, the Walsh Street shootings, where waiting assassins gunned down two random cops investigating an abandoned car left in the middle of the road. It was this incident that served as the starting point for David Michôd’s film, his fictional depiction of the psychological terrain that gave rise to such a ruthless act of cold blooded brutality in a city where the dynamic below the surface was very different from the civilised cultural spaces of the picture postcards.
Jacki Weaver received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the family matriarch, the over the top loving mother with a psycho edge. Off-putting and borderline perverse, she insists on inflicting long-drawn-out kisses on her sons’ lips as much to their embarrassment as to the audience’s. But this is schmaltz and saccharine of the controlling kind, a privileged quirk that only the powerful can afford themselves. And no one could seriously doubt, with the exception of J, that we are dealing with a ruthless ‘Godmother’ that will stop at nothing to protect ‘the family’ regardless of the consequences. One minute J is a much loved long lost grandson, the next he is wholly expendable.
Even more chilling is the eldest son, Andrew “Pope” Cody, a paranoid psychotic who Ben Mendelssohn plays with such chilling effect that his performance lingers in the mind long after the screening. A disturbing obsession with cross-examining anybody who crosses his path with persistent questions on mundane subjects almost to the point of pleading for a response – “I just want you to talk about it”, “I am here for you” – becomes an in-depth probing of expressions and gestures in the search for duplicity. Any hint of ‘guilt’ on his terms and they are duly dispatched.
Guy Peace is very convincing as the one ethical cop on view, a charismatic detective sergeant who tries his level best to persuade J to give evidence against Pope and a younger Cody, both accused of the cop killings. The family’s corrupt lawyers counter by coaching J with trial responses that draw on his innocent persona. J’s split loyalties provide a genuine tension that runs to the end.
The shifting power positions between the family and external forces, the growing sense of entrapment and the increasingly irrational responses bring to mind the principal thematic concerns of Roman Polanski; many of which were evident in his recent Ghost Writer. Comparisons are inevitable but the themes here sit comfortably within the diegetic world that Michôd has created and, far from being derivative, augment a fresh and individual look at some home truths that we should prefer to ignore. With the benefit of hindsight, it is apparent that distorted and disjointed security camera stills of bank robberies in progress, which form part of the opening credits, provide a remarkably concise visual metaphor for the themes that Michôd would develop within the film itself.generic cialis online reviewsgeneric cialis professionaldomperidone purchasecialis sublingualcialis sublinguale cialis sublingual 20mg generic cialis sublingual buy domperidone tablets
Winner of a World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance 2010, Animal Kingdom heralds a new distinctive voice of considerable note; the latest in a long list of Australian filmmakers to make their mark.