“Animal Kingdom” DVD, Blu-Ray Review

1/20/2011 Posted by Admin

“Animal Kingdom”

DVD, Blu-Ray Movie Review

Directed by David Michôd, Written by David Michôd, 113 minutes, Rated R.

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

"Animal Kingdom" should not be taken lightly. Its go-for-the-gut narrative and intense, yet cold performances create a world of fear and anguish, punctuated by tense silences and violent outbursts.

This story of a young boy living with his criminal family never falters in its attempts to instill a sense of dread and rarely fails to deliver gripping setups with painful results. Director David Michôd’s film hunts the viewer, and as such, "Animal Kingdom" emerges on top of the food chain as one of the scariest and most dangerous films of 2010.

After his mother overdoses, authorities send Jay (James Frencheville) to live with his aunt Janine (Jackie Weaver) and her lawless, middle-aged sons. Jay watches them sell drugs and avoid police successfully until his fugitive uncle Andrew (Ben Mendelsohn) returns home. Andrew’s reentrance into home life creates a world of violence and paranoia, as police intimidate the family into giving him up. As things spiral out of control, Jay finds himself and the ones he loves on the front lines.

To say more would risk the film's structure, which depends on moments of quiet stillness to set up the feral, startling violence that follows. Scenes of family togetherness are followed by a bloody rebuttal from police. Like a lion on the prowl, the film approaches slowly and attacks fiercely.

Michôd imbues this bestial drive into the film’s every aspect. The family’s actions resemble animals. For example, Cody’s flee from police resembles a hunted gazelle running across the Sahara, while Andrew’s playful wrestling looks like a lion toying with his cub. This central theme gives the films editing, look, and acting common ground. These people are animals, and Michôd never forgets it.

Yet, while its characters are rich, the film relies mainly on its brutality. Andrew’s cruelty and volatility makes for some nail-biting tension and ghastly results. Mendelsohn turns the character into something so vile, that your heart will sink each time he comes onscreen.

In the end, "Animal Kingdom" shows natural selection at its worst, allowing no mercy in the fight for survival. Yet Michôd isn't afraid to show sympathy to its victims. The mix of humanity and the brutality is haunting--and so is "Animal Kingdom."

Grade: A

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