James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Sullivan Stapleton, Luke Ford, Dan Wyllie, Anthony Hayes, Laura Wheelwright, Mirrah Foulkes, Justin Rosniak, Susan Prior, Clayton Jacobson, Anna Lise Phillips
After his mother dies, seventeen year-old J Cody (James Frecheville) has no choice but to contact his maternal grandmother, Janine "Smurf" Cody (Jacki Weaver), who rules her criminal family with a borderline incestuos love over her three sons. Among blood brothers and blood, manipulated trial sand revenge served cold, J will soon lose his innocence.
The extremely impressive debut from Australian director David Michôd, Animal Kingdom is a tense, gloomy, innovative and mesmerizing crime family drama.
In this bitter and dramatic film, Michôd tells the gangster life as if it was an animal kingdom, where the strongest, the one that eats the weakest wins, and also makes a criticism to those men - and women - who are neither men nor animals. He shows all this with a cynical eye, with no compassion, and wonderfully manages to convey violence without aestheticizing it.
However, the moral condemnation aforementioned soon stops to make room for a world where no one is really good or bad. In fact, whether criminals or cops there is no difference: they all use others for their own ends. Only detective Leckie makes exception.
Also, don't expect long shooting scenes, or robberies or car chases because there are none in Animal Kingdom, as the action is reduced to a minimum.
The films makes use of the minimalist synthesiser music from Antony Partos to create an air of dread and tension.
The cast is uniformly excellent. In his debut James Frecheville is basically a piece of wood as J (in a good way), he is in a constant catatonic state, seemingly frail and confused, Ben Mendelsohn delivers a convincing performance as terrifying psychopath Pope, Guy Pearce gives a wonderful and intense performance as detective Leckie, and Jacki Weaver gives a strong performance as Smurf, the matriarch of the family with the psychotic smiles.