Animal Kingdom (Blu-ray)
ANIMAL KINGDOM opens with 16-year-old Josh, also known as “J” (James Frecheville), sitting on a couch watching Wheel of Fortune. Next to him is his unconscious mother. J is patiently waiting for the ambulance to arrive where they will pronounce his mother dead due to a drug overdose. He now is making a phone call to his estranged grandmother Janine (Jackie Weaver), who promptly invites him to live with her family. Little does he know his mother was protecting him from being influenced by her dangerous criminal family.
Introductions to the family are in order from oldest to youngest. First, is grandma Janine, the disturbingly sweet but wiser evil mother behind the family. Uncle Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) is an armed robber hiding from the law. Honorary family member, Barry “Baz” Brown (Joel Edgerton) is best friends and crime partner to Pope. Uncle Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) is a little more erratic dealing in drug trade. Uncle Darren (Luke Ford) is only a year or two older than J and acts more as an apprentice to his older brothers. Detective Leckie (Guy Pearce) is trying to help J navigate his way out of his unfortunate and helpless situation and put the rest of his family behind bars.
David Michod wrote and directed this well executed view of a criminal family. Using young J as a vessel for the audience. Although oddly apathetic to his situation, J is the closest character the audience can identify with and are thrust into the environment with him. Never quite knowing the origins of the family’s illegal activity, the audience knows about as much as J does. Building confusion and tension, we never feel at ease among these people. Every gunshot made me jump or tense, which is a huge testament to the sound, time, pace and overall edit of the film.
The acting truly is phenomenal. Although a bit over the top at times, Jacki Weaver earns her Oscar nomination owing some of it to the well written character that actors would dream of playing. James Frecheville is the real standout but I believe the casting director deserves most of that credit. As an unknown playing the lead among a bunch of commanding actors Frecheville gets swallowed up and lost. However, that is exactly what happens to the character within this world of unstable and illegal dealings. Unable to trust anyone, his quiet passiveness is perfectly played here. Less is more, which really helped pull his character through.
This intense family crime drama is a very different take than normal. These people are scared and pathetic but will do anything for their own survival without any moral guilt, which makes them very dangerous and frightening. ANIMAL KINGDOM gets inside a dark world that I hope I never encounter and introduces a promising young new filmmaker in David Michod.
Video: (1080p HD 2.35:1) A very nice clean picture.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD MA) The sound mixing is wonderful but the audio levels are a little sporadic.
Audio Commentary with Writer and Director David Michod: Michod made an excellent film but he is not that easy to listen to, lacking a lot of energy.
Creating Animal Kingdom (1:11:25): A very in depth look at the process putting the film together, using lots of interviews with the cast and crew specifically with the director and producer and behind the scene footage including rehearsals and screen tests. True fans will find this insightful and interesting.
Q & A with director David Michod and actors Jacki Weaver and James Frecheville (33:53): After a screening at the L.A. Film Festival, they held a question and answer forum with a moderator and the audience. This also lacks a lot of energy with typical answers from the cast. Michod doesn’t seem that comfortable in front of an audience using lots of ummms.