Animal Kingdom
2010
***
Director: David Michôd
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, Sullivan Stapleton, James Frecheville

After his mother ODs, 17-year-old J moves in with his grandmother and uncles who live off crime. J’s newfound loyalty is immediately put to the test when a Melbourne detective tries to turn him against his family. David Michôd debut feature is a slow-paced and quietly powerful crime drama. The uncles are known bank robbers but now mostly play cat and mouse with the local police who are as ruthless as they are. The inevitable bursts of violence are sporadic and very quick. The problem with Michôd’s stylish film is that J is one of the most uninteresting protagonists I can remember, and it’s nigh on impossible to feel empathy towards him. How this impassive and monosyllabic teenager ever got himself a girlfriend is the most implausible part of the plot. The story was inspired by the real-life Pettingill family.