When Quentin Tarantino publicly praises a film, movie-goers tend to sit up and take notice. Years ago, after watching Tarantino’s entire collection along with movies such as Natural Born Killers and True Romance, I searched for what Tarantino considered to be the best movie he had seen. He gave Battle Royale the top spot, considering it to be the only movie he had wished he had made. Tarantino was not wrong, Battle Royale is undoubtedly a masterpiece, but after reading his thoughts on Animal Kingdom the question arose; could he be right a second time?
Animal Kingdom is a 2010 gangster/family drama directed by David Michôd that stars Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver and introduces James Frechville as Joshua ‘J’ Cody. The film centres on ‘J’ after he loses his mother to a drug overdose and chooses to move in with his Grandmother, Janine (Jacki Weaver), and her family. After a member of the family is killed by a police drug squad, the Cody’s take on the theory of ‘an eye for an eye’ and the brothers Darren, Craig and ‘Pope’ get to work on making things even.
After the deed is done, the police begin to come down hard on the Cody family and ‘J’ in particular. The police highlight him as the weak link in the family and, with Detective Nathan Lockie (Guy Pearce) insistent he can help ‘J’ escape the clutches of his family, he eventually agrees to give evidence against his brothers and enters witness protection.
Animal Kingdom has already been repeatedly likened to Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. While Animal Kingdom doesn’t quite have enough in its locker to surpass Scorsese’s gangster epic, it more than holds its own. Animal Kingdom shines for a number of reasons, two of them being James Frechville and Ben Mendelsohn, who plays ‘Pope’. Mendelsohn is outstanding as the psychotic brother, and Frechville, having a lot to live up to in the lead part’s shoes, handles the role impeccably.
Best scene: The last scene, one of the most shocking in recent memory.
Best performance: Close between Frechville and Mendelsohn, but Mendelsohn tips it.
Loosely based on the crimes in Melbourne in the 1980’s.