Granny will fuck you up.
Animal Kingdom is a film I feel quite conflicted about, so my advance apologies if this review is a rambling series of contradictions that add up to no coherent whole. Although in fairness it would be in keeping with the general standard here so. It's both a concise, mostly well acted version of a classic family crime movie and a superficially stylized, deceptively familiar series of cliches set against a realist backdrop, with only shaky-cam and Australian accents away from being Pride and Glory (The shitty Colin Farrell one.) I liked what I saw but felt that the film's style, particular the numerous slow-motion shots of people walking became a hindrance after a while, distracting from the simple but occasionally powerful story it was telling.
I think judged on a pure narrative level, there isn't much new to Animal Kingdom. Family crime dramas tend to always follow that Godfather path, of seeing the good one slowly getting corrupted and seduced by the world. But Animal Kingdom's mostly realistic and character orientated sheen made some of the material work. There's a couple of strong, arresting sequences and strong supporting performances that add up to an uneven but engaging whole. Guy Pearce, as always these days, does good work in a potentially thin role and makes a sympathetic antagonist/voice of reason. For the longest time I was a bit up in the air about Jacki Weaver's Oscar nomination. She doesn't get much to do for the first hour or so, but then you start to get it, as Weaver begins to reveal the monster behind the world's best grandma exterior that grew a bit thin. Its perhaps a little too much of a high concept performance, but an effective one just the same. Lead James Frecheville is a blank slate, I think intentionally so, but it does limit how much you can invest in his story. My main problem though I think is with Ben Mendelsohn's Andrew, A character too broad and weakly acted to be such a crux to the story, the film is it at its strongest in the back half once the character disappears from view.
Animal Kingdom is one of those films that too often tries to convince you of its importance, and that does lead on occasion to have a distancing effect. Its a slight dilemma to criticize a movie for thinking its better then it is when it is actually quite good but still. You gots to be honest. See it for an adult, subtle if familiar take on classic genre material and for the fact that the bad certainly is outweighed by the good. Mature films such as this are hard to come by these days.