Australian crime drama follows the Codys, a notorious family of criminals as seen through the eyes of recently-orphaned teenager “J” (Frecheville), who goes to live with them when his mother overdoses. Oscar-nominee Weaver plays matriarch Janine (aka Smurf), a diminutive woman who manages to be terrifying when at her sweetest. The police step up their efforts and kill a close friend and associate, escalating the simmering tension between the cops and crooks into a full-blown war.
Given the myriad details about everyday life under surveillance, it would be easy to draw parallels between this film and GoodFellas (1990) except Animal Kingdom takes place in a decidedly suburban setting. Unlike the former, one gets the impression the kid’s soul is still up for grabs, even as he begins down the wrong path. You know going in that it’s not gonna end well, you just don’t know how.
Mendelsohn is unnerving as the clan’s token live wire; Pearce, a cop in the great L.A. Confidential (1997), once again plays a decent lawman. Director Michôd makes interesting sonic choices, sometimes pushing sounds far out into the stereo spectrum to undermine a casual setting; at one point, a dangerous plan is hatched, and as if to underscore the duality of the relaxed living room setting, Air Supply’s “All Out of Love,” is mixed with an ominous score that recasts the ballad as something fierce. (Sony Classics)
— DENNIS WILLIS