Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Dec 27th
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

 

Dancing In the Rain

District Attorney Bob Lee’s death in October stunned the Santa Cruz community, but he had battled cancer fiercely—and privately—for more than a decade. Now one of his closest friends reveals the remarkable inside story

 

Our Gifts - Fiery Sacrificial Lights to One Another

Wednesday is Christmas Eve, Hanukkah ends and the Moon is in Aquarius, calling for the new world to take shape at midnight. Thursday morning, the sun, at the Tropic of Capricorn, begins moving northward. The desire currents are stilled. A great benediction of spiritual force (Capricorn’s Rays 1, 3, 7) streams into Earth. Temple bells ring out. The heavens bend low; the Earth is lifted up to the Light. Angels and Archangels chant, “On Earth, peace, goodwill to all.” As these forces stream into the Earth they assume long swirling lines of light, in the likeness of the Madonna and Child. The holy child is born. Let our hearts be “impressed” with and hold this picture, especially because Christmas may be difficult this year. Christmas Day is void of course moon (v/c moon), which means we may feel somewhat disconnected from one another. It’s difficult to connect in a v/c moon. Try anyway. Mercury joins Pluto in Capricorn. Uh oh … we don’t bring up the past containing any dark and difficult issues. We are to attempt new ways of communicating—expressing aspirations and love for one another, replacing wounding, sadness, lostness, and hurts of the past. Play soothing music, pray together, have the intention for peace, harmony and goodwill. Don’t be surprised if things feel out of control and/or arguments arise. We remember, before a new harmony emerges, chaos and crisis come first to clear the air. We are to be the harmonizers. Christmas evening is more harmonious, less difficult, more of what Christmas should be— radiations of love, sharing, kindness, compassion and care. Sunday, Feast Day of the Holy Family, is surprising. Wednesday is New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2014. Taurus moon, a stabilizing energy, ushers in the New Year. Happy New Year, everyone! Peace to everyone. Let us realize we are gifts radiating diamond light to one another. Living sacrificial flames!

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Let My People Go

There’s a lot to like in Ridley Scott’s maligned ‘Exodus’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Best Bites of 2014

A look back at the year in good taste

 

What downtown business is good for both one-stop shopping and last-minute gifts?

The Homeless Garden Project store. Because it is a community effort and has really useful and beautiful things, and allows you to connect with a lot of folks who are doing great work in Santa Cruz. Miriam Greenberg, Santa Cruz, UCSC Professor

 

Vino Tabi Winery

One of Santa Cruz’s most happening areas to go wine tasting is in the westside’s Swift Street Courtyard complex. Ever since a group of about a dozen wineries got together and formed Surf City Vintners (SCV), the place has been a hive of activity, and a wine-tasting mecca. Adding to the mix is the lively Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing beer company—making Swift Street Courtyard a perfect spot for a glass of wine or a pitcher of ale.

 

Betty’s Eat Inn

Yes, she’s a real person; no, this isn’t her