Animal Kingdom (2010)
When your family is part of organized crime, then who can you trust?
Quite possibly the best crime drama since "The Town." Not to be confused with the original 1932 film of the same name, as I can assure you that the stories for both movies are vastly different by comparison. Like most crime dramas, the movie shows a lot of the hidden pitfalls when associating with organized crime; especially when that association comes from your own family. Little things from not knowing who to trust, to betrayal, and even sacrifices that one must make to survive. "Animal Kingdom" is adrenaline thrill ride that not only keeps it's audiences constantly guessing, it's a powerful character driven film about survival during adversity.
The film is centered around a young teenager named Joshua Cody (James Frecheville) aka "J", who finds himself in a perplexing situation when the police start to investigate his family. For years, J's family has always had their hands in organized crime and bank robberies; even coercing some crooked cops to overlook some of their crimes. To say that J's family isn't ball's deep in illegal activities would be naive, as they've been running a pretty successful racket for quite a while. However, as a wise man once said, all good things must come to an end. As the police start to get more fierce in their investigation, distrust and confusion plagues J's family. Bringing them to the point where J's girlfriend is viciously murdered in cold blood out of a misunderstanding of where J's true loyalties lie.
At first, he adamantly vows not to say anything to the police but when he finds out his girlfriend is murdered, by one of his uncles, he soon has a change of heart. However, can he even trust the police? After all, even after his uncles are in jail, his grandmother, Janine (Jacki Weaver), manages to pull a few strings to have a few crooked cops try to kill him; even though he's allegedly protected in the witness protection program. That doesn't matter, as it seems J isn't safe anywhere he goes. What would anyone do if this suddenly happened to them? Where would any of us go? To be honest, I don't know what I would do if this happened to me, but the end result of this film isn't for the faint of heart. As I said earlier, sometimes we're forced to do things we're not so proud of to survive. Sure, we may not want to, or we would like to believe that there's another way, but what other choice do we really have?
I have to say that I was highly impressed with David Michod's direction of this film. Although the film does borrow elements from other crime dramas like "The Town", "Goodfellas", and "The Departed", it still manages to create a unique feel all it's own. With "Goodfellas", "Animal Kingdom" borrows the element of the main protagonist getting sucked into organized crime, as he eventually tries to distance himself from it; only to have his own life in danger later on.
With "The Town", there's the sense of family being ball's deep in organized crime. Where everyone is on the edge, as to who to trust. Everyone wants to do whatever it takes to protect the family but at the same time, everyone is clearly out for themselves. The we get to "The Departed", where the "Animal Kingdom" borrows the elements of a corrupt police force aiding a illegal crime syndicate; hence putting our main protagonist's life in jeopardy even more. All these elements were borrowed from those other crime dramas mentioned, but they're all woven together quite beautifully. Creating arguably one of the most captivating crime stories that I've ever seen, as it'll leave audiences begging for more.
Jacki Weaver plays the part of innocent motherly figure to perfection; throughout most of the movie. However, I wouldn't let that innocent act fool you, as she can be quite manipulative and vindictive when she wants to be. Just take the scene where she blackmails the same cop that's been aiding her family for years to put a hit out on her own grandson, Josh. You tell me, does this sound like the act of a innocent woman? I certainly don't think so, and I don't think anyone else should either.
In the end, I would have to give this film a three and a half out of four. It's certainly not as deep as the other crime dramas that I mentioned previously, as those offered more deep introspective moments with the lead actor. Whereas this film, I felt James Frecheville's performance came off a bit stale at times. However, it's not too bad where it ruins the whole movie, but it could have been a bit better. Overall, if your a huge fan of crime dramas, then I would highly recommend this film. It may not have been as commercially as popular as the other ones mentioned, but you won't be disappointed.