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Animal Kingdom

Year: 2010
Production Co: Porchlight Films
Director: David Michod
Producer: Liz Watts
Writer: David Michod
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Jackie Weaver, Luke Ford, Anthony Hayes, Clayton Jacobson

Shameless self promoting trivia - with this film scooping the critical pools and doing well at the Australian box office I'm telling everyone how I used to work for the praised writer/director David Michod. He edited a film magazine I used to freelance for.

So while I might have written a glowing review had I wanted to suck up to him to get more work, I can't in good conscience. It's a good film, but it's not the great film all the buzz would have you believe. Like Somersault, I think it's just a case of it being the only halfway decent thing to come from the usually-mediocre body of work that is Australian films.

There's a great cast and an interesting expositionary device in the young cousin Josh. With no experience or knowledge of the characters of their world, he's the vehicle to deliver a considerable amount of story to us seamlessly.

When his mother dies of an overdose, he goes to live with his grandmother Smurf (Weaver), mother to three distinctive career criminals at different stages of getting out of the game.

Josh falls under their spell but a detective on their trail (Pearce) sees him as the means to end their suburban crime empire, and Josh finds himself torn between two loyalties - family and the right thing.

I think a lot of people will have seen it expecting a big screen Underbelly, a cultural connection the producers would have been only too happy to exploit even though you could hardly find two more different storytelling styles. Though it sounds ridiculous, the pace kept reminding me of Picnic at Hanging Rock - it's very lazy and fluid with occasional bursts of sudden violence.

In that way it's no doubt very realistic, but Michod's approach of burying the narrative under the mood somewhat makes for a film that felt like it was dragging for several stretches.

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