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Animal Kingdom (6/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 112 minutes.

Not for children.

This is the violent story of an Australian crime family consisting of armed robber Pope Cody (Ben Mendelsohn) who is hiding from some renegade detectives who are out to kill him. His partner, Barry 'Baz' Brown (Joel Edgerton), seems like a nice enough guy, but wants to go straight. Pope has a younger brother, Craig Cody (Sullivan Stapleton), who is a drug addict, but is making a lot of money selling drugs. They have a younger brother, Darren (Luke Ford), who is not a bad guy yet, but is learning the family business.

The film starts as their nephew, Joshua 'J' Cody (James Frecheville), is sitting in an apartment placidly watching television next to his mother who has just died from an overdose, so he appears to have inherited the sociopathy of his family.  J moves in with the crime family under the thumb of his grandmother, Smurf (Jacki Weaver), mother to the Cody boys. She is a real piece of work. Shes got a wonderful, heartwarming smile, but shes the glue that holds the family (and the movie) together. J finds that the world of his grandmother and uncles is far beyond his ken.

J also finds himself in the middle of a maelstrom as the police are apparently out to murder the Codys in cold blood. All alone, he turns to a girlfriend, Nicky (Laura Wheelwright) for solace, but the family ensnares her, too.

Adding to the murky affair, one of the cops, Nathan (Guy Pearce), is trying to turn J into a witness for him. Its a tough life for J.

This is a dark, depressing film with at least one killing of such cold-blooded depravity it is difficult to forget. Weaver creates a truly memorable villainess, an almost perfect sociopath, hidden from view by a wonderful smile, but with almost no human compassion or feeling. Pearce gives his usual fine performance. While the acting is very good overall, Wheelwright shines in her relatively short appearance. Written and directed by David Michd, its so dark it could have used a little humor occasionally.

August 10, 2010