Animal Kingdom: and you thought your family was dysfunctional

Animal Kingdom is a raw, naturalistic drama from Australia about a supremely messed-up family who make a living out of violent crime and drugs, and the consequences of their inevitable confrontation with the police on their youngest member, teenage Josh. Under a shaky veneer of normality the lives of these people are filled with routine brutality, and the stakes are raised once the police squad investigating them show themselves to be equally ruthless at inflicting abrupt violence, particularly once the nervy and sociopathic Andrew (nickname “Pope”) gets hold of the reins of the family. The deaths that occur are shocking for their suddenness and lack of telegraphing and for the way that the family’s matriarch Janine (a study in the banality of evil by Jacki Weaver) is able to calmly assimilate them, and even plot out breathtakingly extreme measures to ensure that her freedom and comfort isn’t compromised. This is a gripping film, despite the bleak picture it paints of humanity’s capability for callousness, and writer/director David Michôd never lets the characters descend into caricatures or the situations become overly contrived. True grit.

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