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Animal Kingdom

5/10

Stars: Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, James Frecheville, Jacki Weaver, Luke Ford, Sullivan Stapleton, Mirrah Foulkes, Laura Wheelwright

Director: David Mich˘d

A doomy Australian thriller with a fair share of unintentionally funny lines, but unsettlingly good performances from Mendelsohn and Weaver as the most dangerous members of a family of crooks. Armed robbery has been the game for most of them, but times are getting hard, and Baz (Edgerton) already prefers the stock market.

Second-billed Edgerton hardly lasts beyond the second reel before being blasted by police on the pretext that he has a gun. Revenge is clearly in the air, especially with the smouldering keg of gunpowder that is the psychotic Pope (Mendelsohn) taking a hand.

The central character, however, is Josh or J (newcomer Frecheville), who moves in with Granny Smurf (Weaver) and her four boys after his mother - her daughter - ODs on heroin. J becomes peripherally involved in the brothers' lethal activities, but actions by Pope force him towards the arms of the law (Pearce) and Gran demands he has to be silenced.

There are some good moments here and shockingly effective sudden bursts of violence, but director Mich├┤d takes too long over many of his scenes, dissipating all the suspense; his film would benefit from running a tight 90 minutes or so. And one or two developments - police guards laying down their arms at the sight of armed 'police' gunmen moving in - do stretch credibility to the limit.

David Quinlan

Australia 2010. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour by Atlab.
113 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 24 Feb 2011