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David Michôd pulls us into the dark criminal underworld of 1980s Melbourne where seventeen year old Josh (James Frecheville), confronted with the death of his mother from a self-inflicted heroin overdose, is forced to live amongst his family of drug dealers and thieves, struggling to find his place in the pack. The Armed Robbery Squad’s crackdown on crime has reached fever pitch, as they show no mercy with machine guns, picking off fugitives like flies. There is an air of intense fear and paranoia, which quickly turns everyone against each other. 

Michôd delivers tension you could cut with a knife and schizo characters whose animalistic impulses keep you constantly on edge. Guy Pierce is particularly brilliant as the young detective, driven to extremes to catch criminals, while Jacki Weaver delivers an Oscar nominated performance as manipulative matriarch of the clan, both sweet and vicious. She smiles as she plots murders and kisses her sons before she betrays them all. Josh (newcomer Frecheville) restrains expression; looking both frozen with anxiety and hopelessly naïve about the life he has been entered into.

Michôd has said of the film, his breakout feature, that it is as much about ‘the making of a criminal’ as a story about family structure and the relationships within that.

He said of the film: ‘I felt quite clear from an early stage what kind of a crime film I wanted to make and it was one that was kind of sprawling but very menacing as well, and in part that menace comes from that sense that we might have that these volatile and very dangerous people might just literally be lurking around the corner’.

I think it is fair to say that we can expect great things from David Michôd in the future.

Catch Animal Kingdom at the DCA until March 17th.

Flossie Topping

Interview: The Telegraph website.
Image: http://moviecultists.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/animal-kingdom-poster.jpg