“Crooks always come undone, always, one way or another”
This little-seen gem from 2010 (it only played theatrically for a few weeks last summer in Toronto) is quickly starting to gain a little more well-deserved attention thanks to actress Jacki Weaver’s Golden Globe nomination (with good chances for a subsequent Oscar nod) as well as its release on DVD this week.
The story follows Josh, a teen who’s spent his life dealing with a drug-addicted mother who overdoses in front of him in the film’s first moments. Forced to reconnect with the only family he has left, a grandmother (Weaver) and three uncles he hasn’t had contact with since his mother stopped speaking to them years before, Josh is suddenly plunged into a tense and dangerous world of murder and mayhem at the hands of the very people who are meant to care for him.
Josh is quickly taken under the wing of his uncles cocaine dealer Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and dim-witted mama’s boy Darren (Luke Ford), who are working with their business partner Baz Brown (Joel Edgerton) to protect their eldest brother, the crazy-eyed, paranoia-prone Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) from the police. For Pope, hiding out is the only way to survive but when the police savagely murdering someone within the family in an attempt to flush Pope out, the situation escalates to a whole new level of violence, with the brothers roping Josh into their scheme for bloody vengeance. At the same time, a senior officer (Guy Pearce) tries to persuade Josh into testifying against his family, which all but paints a target on his back.
Writer/DIrector David Michod has created an atmosphere that will have you on the edge of your seat, wondering which of the numerous haunting, intense and achingly anxious moments is finally going to be the one that crushes Josh for good.
Michod has also created a chilling character, played pitch-perfectly by Jacki Weaver – in Josh’s grandmother, Smurf. As she slowly begins to reveal herself to the audience, it becomes clear that there’s a fire burning underneath the surface and all at once, the seemingly sweet grandmother comes full circle as something far more daunting, and far more dangerous.
Caught right in the middle of a seemingly unwinnable conflict, Josh is finally forced to chose between his family and doing the right thing. He quickly realizes that the only way to survive is to learn how to play the game, or in other words, how to show everyone else who’s king of the jungle.
Animal Kingdom hits DVD shelves in Toronto this week. Check out one of Toronto’s many excellent indie video stores for your very own copy.