As humans, we are prone to certain animalistic behavior. This can include an inborn want to protect our children and need for certain control – whether it be sexual or just dominance over the household, family values, etc. That being said, we’re “trained” to abstain from the animal inside all of us through a system of laws, ethics and morals. But I believe that under certain circumstances, man can revert back to the barbaric, savage nature of our pre-civilization ancestors. We just have it locked away in us by fear of imprisonment, death, or sometimes even the death of others. David Michôd’s new film “Animal Kingdom” exposes the sad truth through the story of 17-year-old Josh, who following the death of his mother is sent to live with his estranged grandmother and uncles, who just so happen to be ruthless felons. Of course, this means Josh is tangled into a web of sociopaths, murderers, cops, and lawyers – all who offer the same promise of protection for the young and thus weak Josh, who has trouble adapting to his new surroundings.
Surprisingly, this Australian import doesn’t bask in large-scale theatrics involving firefights and high speed car chases like many of its American counterparts and this simple detail helps because it allows “Animal Kingdom” to play out on a human level – we are presented a young man and it’s his experience with his fellow man, which has been deprived of all things civil, that makes for turbulent “action” sequences. It’s quite simple because in the world of film, emotion usually trumps action.
From the first scene of the film, the topic of animalistic behavior in humans in present; in the scene, Josh witnesses his mother’s death at the hands of a heroin overdose. Instead of panicking, he sits still before finally decided to call an ambulance. Of course, in the animal kingdom, death is much more prevalent, and though we can never be sure whether animals feel any sort of emotion such as love or hate, from observations, it seems that animals do not go through a grieving process when a death occurs – same with Josh, who remains largely stoic and mum throughout the entire motion picture.
Besides an interesting message, which rivals “Bad Lieutenant” on the scale of nihilism, “Animal Kingdom” also sports several notable performances, which include: Ben Mendelsohn, Luke Ford and Sullivan Stapleton as the three uncles that Josh meets; Guy Pearce as Leckie, a cop who lectures Josh into ratting out his family-members and who uses the law as a form of protective device in order to seduce the weak-willed Josh; and Jacki Weaver as Smurf, the grandmother who exerts an extremely disturbing sexual vibe when she shares screen-time with her children – of course, this is intended and Weaver pulls off the sweet-but-has-something-to-hide persona effectively, thus making her performance one of the most memorable. Sadly, James Frecheville, who plays Josh, is not quite as interesting as his co-stars but the blame goes to the film’s script which uses him as a device in order to send the message most of the time.
In all, “Animal Kingdom” deserves to be seen by audience members everywhere.
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