Animal Kingdom (2010)

Now…if I recall correctly, this Aussie crime drama was the ‘darling’ of a number of ‘independent’ film festivals on its initial, limited release. I’m not entirely sure why. The story circles around a dimwitted 17 year old kids unwilling inclusion in the not-so-legit activities of his extended family, after his ma keels over from a heroin overdose. What follows is a weak ‘cat n mouse’ game of alliances and deceptions as he discovers just how shitty this little enclave of degenerate relatives truly is. The acting is decent, especially from Guy Pearce as the lead investigating detective; a role to which the reliable Aussie thespian lends credible paternal warmth and dignity. The other major standout is Jacki Weaver as the manipulative and creepy ‘Grandma ‘Smurf”; the matriarch of the criminal clan. While those two stood out, the main character, played by some James Frecheville dumbass, came across as exactly that…a dumbass. There didn’t seem to be any arc for the character at all; with ‘J’ coming across as borderline catatonic for the ENTIRE movie. Which stole all credibility from the end ‘shocker’ of a scene. I didn’t buy it at all because there’d been virtually zero indication that he was capable of…that. Or capable of any true independent thought…like breathing without having to think about it. I wanted to back-hand the little wuss for being nothing but confused and scared the whole film. THE WHOLE FILM. I really didn’t feel as though there was anyone to truly ‘root’ for. Guy Pearce would’ve been the logical choice, after it dawned onto the audience that the ‘Main Character’ is a developmentally-challenged moron who’s just being bumped around by the plot with no real sense of ‘grasp’. But Pearce’s ‘Sgt. Leckie’ is portrayed almost ‘incidentally’. Or so I thought. And speaking of ‘developmentally-challenged’, many of the relationships in the film felt…empty. Especially the one between ‘J’ and his one-dimensional girlfriend. There was no indication as to how they met, how long they’d been together, where they were going in life, what they had in common etc. Being that she eventually becomes a source of motivation…there’s no basis given for ‘J’ to be motivated. It felt VERY undeveloped. The style of the film is nearly a LACK of style. It’s VERY straightforward in how it’s presented, with not a lot offered up as stylish flourishs. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because, as we know, a generous slathering of style can mar a films intent and overshadow the story (lookin at YOU again, Michael Bay!). Here…the story is plain to see. It’s just not as engaging as I had hoped. It’s not a bad film, by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s not a great film because there WASN’T a great stretch of the imagination.Take it…or leave it.

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