After the death of his mother teenager Joshua Cody (James Frecheville) is forced to move in with his grandmother, Janine “Smurf” Cody (Jacki Weaver).
She lives together with her three sons, who are all criminals and suspected of various criminal activities like armed robberies and dealing drugs. The police is constantly keeping an eye on them. It doesn’t take long before the Cody boys involve Joshua in their way of doing business. Will Joshua be able to resist the temptation?
At the beginning of the movie it quickly becomes clear in which way the brothers look at the world around them when Joshua is driving along with one of the brothers. When they are challenged and threatened by some men in another car they chase them and Joshua is given a gun and told to get out and solve the problem. They don’t know the word negotiations, they choose the road of the least resistance. It’s not a game that they can play with the police though.
As this is an Australian movie, Guy Pearce was the only actor I knew. He plays a smaller part as one of the detectives involved in the investigation of the brothers. The fact that all the other actors are not known, makes the performance stand out as you normally have expectations of what an actor can do. The members of the Cody family are all people who are hard criminals that you wouldn’t want to meet. Especially Jacki Weaver, playing the role of grandmother/mother Smurf, is excellent. When you first see her character you just know that there’s something underneath the surface which isn’t right. Lead actor James Frecheville also convinces as a teenager that needs to make tough decisions about family and safety.
The Cody family is loosely based on the Pettingill family, who were involved in a shootout with the police in Melbourne in the eighties.
Animal Kingdom is a very good Australian movie about criminals in Melbourne. Its strong cast and powerful story show that the Australian movie industry is capable of creating great movies.