Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Apr 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

It's A Jungle Out There

Film_1AnimalkindomSQYouth sucked into crime family in grim, forceful 'Animal Kingdom'
ll teenagers go through a period of trying to find themselves and figure out their place in the larger world. But most of them don't have to launch their search from the depths of a family of career criminals, like the young protagonist in the bleak, yet forceful Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom. Tossed without ceremony into a metaphorical pit of vipers, this 17-year-old boy has more than the usual obstacles to contend with, maneuvering constantly toward survival while the adults around him teach him the law of the jungle.

Written and directed by David Michod, the film is loosely inspired by a series of real-life crimes and consequences that rocked the city of Melbourne in 1988 and 1989. An execution-style ambush and murder of a pair of young policemen was believed to be in retribution for previous police shootings of members of an elusive gang of armed bank robbers. Michod's film depicts a sinister situation in which the increasingly reckless police in the Armed Robbery Squad (rife with corruption within its own ranks) and a loosely allied gang of violent criminals wage barely contained tribal warfare just beneath the city's surface calm.

Into this tense milieu strays 17-year-old Josh "J" Cody (James Frecheville, in an impressive film debut). After his single mom dies of a heroin overdose, J doesn't know what he's in for when he calls the grandmother he hasn't seen in years to ask what he ought to do next. Granny turns out to be Janine Cody (Jacki Weaver), a hard-boiled, mini-skirted bottle blonde who comes to collect the boy and insert him into her household of lowlife gangster sons.

J's Uncle Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) is a hair-trigger, tattooed cokehead who deals drugs (chiefly through a crooked cop in the drug enforcement squad). Uncle Darren (Luke Ford), just a couple of years older than J, does whatever his big brothers tell him to. Baz (Joel Edgerton, last seen in The Square), a Cody family ally, is thinking of leaving crime for the stock market; robbery is "getting too hard," and he disdains the "grubby business" of drug-dealing. Most disturbing of all is J's "Uncle Pope" (Ben Mendelsohn), passive-aggressive sociopath and mastermind of the family crime spree who manipulates the others with cold, reptilian finesse. (With his slight build and unremarkable features, Mendelsohn's Pope is a poster boy for the banality of evil.)

Film_AnimalkindomJ re-enters the family unit that his mother (the brothers' only sister) kept at bay and out of his life for years. A silent, stoic presence among them, the youth passes no value judgments (in fact, his reactions are almost entirely internalized). "Kids just are wherever they are and do whatever they're doing," he offers
in an early scrap of narration. But as he watches and tries to process this new world, we see things from
his viewpoint.

It's a pretty unsavory picture. At the center is queen bee Janine, who treats her boys like fractious children ("Kids, c'mon!" she chuckles when Pope assaults one of his brothers in a cold rage)—when she's not sitting on their laps or kissing them on the lips.  J believes the family antics have nothing to do with him and the plucky, kohl-eyed girlfriend (Laura Wheelwright) he starts bringing round the house. But as the family history begins to ensnare him, and he has his first brush with the law, J has to start thinking for himself when a concerned, well-intentioned police detective, Leckie (Guy Pearce) tries to offer him a chance to save himself.

Michod excels in constructing a web of intrigue where corruption is so ingrained (on both sides of the law), there is literally nowhere for J to go and no one he dares trust. A propulsive musical score by Antony Partos that seems to throb in the viewers' blood adds extra menace to this well-acted, but almost relentlessly grim morality play.

ANIMAL KINGDOM ★★★(out of four) Watch film trailer >>>

With Ben Mendelsohn, Jacki Weaver, James Frecheville, and Guy Pearce. Written and directed by David Michod. A  Sony Classics release. Rated R. 113 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.

 

Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?