Thursday, May 8, 2014

Indie Review: Animal Kingdom

                                              This 'Animal' Has More Bite Than Bark
                         We tend to have successful yet low quality commercial films that are like fierce and strong lions which really tower over smaller films that are like small leopards that you just really want to see pounce over the big and powerful lions. Since it is an indie film, Animal Kingdom really falls under the latter category rather than the former.
                     Animal Kingdom is about a 17-year-old orphan named Joshua "J" Cody (James Frecheville) who lives with his family of criminals after the death of his mother. J's family is comprised of his matriarchal grandmother Janine, aka "Smurf" (Jacki Weaver), and his three uncles: Andrew aka "Pope" (Ben Mendelsohn), Craig (Sullivan Stapleton), and Darren (Luke Ford). The Cody family then end up in a tangle with the Melbourne police, J finds himself in the middle and unsure whether or not his place is with his violent yet fiercely loyal family.

                    What I Liked About It:
                  One thing that I really liked was how the crime family is portrayed as ordinary-looking human beings. They don't always wear suits like the Corleones from The Godfather nor are they heavily tattooed. They look and act just like regular people who happen to be a family of criminals. Each member even has their own personality. "J" is the youngest member who is struggling to find his place, "Pope" is the psychotic and unstable uncle with a rather quiet demeanor, Craig is the uncle who is always in a panic, "Smurf" is the calm and collected matriarch who is almost too loving of her sons, and Darren is the uncle who is just plain quiet. All are interesting characters, but my personal favorite is honestly "Pope" because of how at times he is off the wall and somewhat chilling, yet during the more quiet moments in the film, he is very sympathetic and we see a more different side to him. I especially loved the way Ben Mendolsohn played his character and how all the other actors played their respective character as well. So, I applaud the director/screenwriter David Michod for creating more fleshed-out characters and making those who see the film give a crap as to whether they want them to live or not. Speaking of which, I liked the direction from David Michod. I liked how in some scenes, he has the characters wear different colored shirts to create a special color scheme and symbolism. Plus, the way he shoots this film really fits its gritty realism.

                 Another thing I liked about the film was how it is a crime film that, in my opinion, still has its own identity. Usually, crime films about the criminals themselves that are released are based on a mafia family or mobster thugs or even drug lords. But, here we have a crime film that focuses less on shoot-em-up scenes and more on the characters themselves, as well as the theme of how you can't pick or escape your family. It's different from The Godfather, which focuses more on loyalty to your family and family values.

                 What I Didn't Like About It:

               Overall, Animal Kingdom is a powerful crime drama that features extravagant performances from its cast and deserves to be ranked among the 'pack' of other crime dramas like Goodfellas, The Godfather, and The Departed. Whether you are a fan of crime dramas or not, I would say give this a watch because this is really one that  will be worth your 2 hours.

Grade: A

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