Animal Kingdom

DRAMA; 1hr 53min

STARRING: Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver

Mother superior: Weaver (with Stapletom)

Joshua “J” Cody (newcomer James Frecheville) is only 17 but as a member of a Melbourne underworld family, he has no illusions about the futility and fragility of criminal life. After his mother’s overdose, J has nowhere to live but with his estranged uncles Pope (Mendelsohn), Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and Darren (Luke Ford). Along with Pope’s best mate Barry (Edgerton), they’re callous lowlives living well outside the law. But they’re no worse than the shady cowboys of the Armed Robbery Squad. And when the Codys’ avenging of a police shooting destroys their tenuous grip and a persistent detective (Pearce) closes in on J, the wary boy must wise up.


Writer-director David Michôd gives crime and punishment an ugly, engrossing workout, going hard on a moody, synthesised soundtrack while holding tight to the brothers’ flinty faces (and the creepily doting smile of Weaver as their dark-horse mother). His bold strategy sucks the audience into the scene and the savvily-cast ensemble delivers the barbed material with streetwise snap. They’re all uncanny but keep an eye on Frecheville. If justice does exist, he’ll be going places.