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Movie Review: Animal Kingdom

Alternate Title: Family Ties

Story: This debut feature film by writer and director David Michôd is a knockout. It has everything that fans of crime dramas crave. It is dark, in that grand old film noir style. It is brooding. It has twists and turns. It has sinister characters that scare the heck out of you. It has fabulous pacing, great cinematography and an eerie sound design that will make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

So what is all the fuss about? Young 17 year old J Cody has just lost his mother to a heroin overdose. With nowhere to turn he contacts his estranged Grandmother. This is not your ordinary Nana of memory. 'Smurf' Cody is a 60 something spitfire with total control over her three sons and their crime empire built around armed robberies and drug dealing. Add to the mix some crooked cops, murder and revenge killings and you get a first rate movie.

The laws of the jungle rule in this feral family. You know those old adages such as 'might makes right,' 'every man for himself,' 'eat or be eaten,' and of course, 'eat your young' are up front and central to this riveting film.

I won't tell you much more about the plot other than to say that it is a slow, steady build up of tension where evil abounds, The pacing lures you into a false sense of security. Just when your shoulders start to relax - the action mounts.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJeO_Yfz1ZE

Acting: The acting is all around first rate. Ben Mendelsohn as Pope Cody is chilling and perfect. Joel Edgerton as Baz Brown leaves too soon. Guy Pearce, one of my favorites as Detective Senior Sgt. Nathan Leckie gives his usually fabulous performance. Luke Ford as Darren Cody is sympathetic. Jacki Weaver as Smurf Cody will surely win more awards for her performance. Sullivan Stapleton as Craig Cody is terrific and first timer James Frecheville as J Cody will leave you breathless.

Trivia: David Michod's film won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize World Cinema for Animal Kingdom. Guy Pearce was born in 1967 in Cambridgeshire, England, Guy Pearce emigrated to Australia to live in Geelong, Victoria, with his family when he was three years old. Five years later, his father, a New Zealand pilot, died in a plane crash leaving his English schoolteacher mother to care for him and his older sister Tracey. He has amazed film critics and audiences alike with his magnificent performances in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), L.A. Confidential (1997), and Ravenous (1999). Next to acting, Guy has had a life long passion for music. In addition to singing and playing the guitar, saxophone, and piano, he has written hundreds of songs, including several that were featured in the movie Hunting (1991).

Predilection: I like crime dramas.

Critters: A dog

Food: Meat and potatoes, sausages in a bun

Sex Spectrum: None

Soundtrack: An unforgettable soundtrack by Antony Partos

Opening Titles: A knockout opening scene with J Cody sitting in his living room with his overdosed mother. The title sequence involves still black and white photos of the gang during their crime sprees.

Visual Art: Director of photography, Adam Arkapaw creates a template that is visually rich and seductive. One of the major scenes also takes place in an Art Museum.

Theater Audience: Crowded for a Sunday afternoon on opening weekend.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: I should have squirmed but I did not.

Drift Factor: I was riveted throughout.

Predictability Level: The ending scene was a surprise to me.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Yes

Big Screen or Rental: Definitely go for the big screen if it comes your way.

Length: Under two hours