Animal Kingdom David Michôd

Animal Kingdom David Michôd
This is an evolutionary step for crime dramas. First-time director David Michod has meticulously crafted a riveting picture that fully understands the expectations of its genre and deliberately defies them. In Melbourne, Australia, the Cody family has been entrenched in crime for generations. Julia Cody manages to keep son Joshua away from the family business until she flees the mortal coil after an overly optimistic smack injection. Feeling rudderless and detached, Joshua, who goes by "J," gets in touch with maternal grandmother "Smurf" (Jacki Weaver) and is slowly sucked into a savage hierarchy, with psychotic uncle "Pope" (Ben Mendelsohn) at the head of the table. Melbourne's Armed Robbery Squad has a vendetta against Pope and when they step over the line, hurting someone close to him, he steps back twice as hard, setting into motion a tense conflict, with J caught in the middle. The terrific ensemble cast invests each character with realistic personality traits and palpable emotion. These are not archetypes; they feel like people you've met or avoided meeting. You don't get a sense up front that anyone is truly evil, making the slow build of nefarious actions and intentions all the more unnerving. Lacking any big names, aside from the chameleonic Guy Pearce, as Animal Kingdom's moral counterpoint to Pope, Detective Leckie, it's even easier to be drawn into the film's simmering tension. Michod establishes early on that no character is safe and no scenario will play out quite as expected. He accomplishes this by going for lower key reasonability and realism in his writing, asking the same of his performers. The sound editing is exceptional, as is the cinematography and pacing; it's a slow burner, but there's nothing resembling a dull moment. An extensive "Making Of" is the primary feature, and it's among the most detailed and reflective I've seen, covering the film's conception through to its Sundance debut with the humble and insightful Michod. Anyone intrigued by the process of filmmaking will find much to digest. Some deleted scenes are included and discussed within the "Making Of," but it'd be nice to see more of the 50-odd minutes they talk about cutting. Full versions of the interviews with Michod and the cast are included separately, along with some brief, but cool, behind-the-scenes footage and the oddly cut theatrical trailer. Animal Kingdom is a masterful cinematic achievement that will be celebrated, studied and discovered for years to come. (eOne)