Thursday, January 27, 2011

Under 250: Animal Kingdom

If I were going to plan a double feature for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a way for them to see what family dramas really look like when they're well done (in stark contrast to The Blind Side), I'd back Australian crime flick Animal Kingdom up against Fish Tank and call it a day.  Animal Kingdom is the type of thriller that doesn't need any balls out chase scenes, that can draw its power from something other than pyrotechnics or bloody mayhem.  It shares quite a bit with Ben Affleck's The Town; the same familial binding, the loose cannons and unceasing menace.  The difference, however, is that Animal Kingdom isn't a Hollywood fiction and never feels like one.  As we follow teenage J (James Frecheville) through his initiation into the family of criminals he's been sheltered from up til this point.  Through his eyes, we are forced to reconcile the bad with the good, to try to trust when we know it's futile.  The pacing is brilliant, letting the natures of these characters sit at a simmer instead of a rolling boil and sucking the viewer into the moral decrepitude and self-destructive tendencies of this scatter shot family.  Animal Kingdom is gritty, naturalistic, hypnotic, and rough, never out and out sacrificing character development for shock value.  


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