I may be a bit naïve and I may not understand what’s sellable and not sellable on the film market. Nevertheless I’m going to start this post whimpering a little. I just don’t get it.
Why is it that Animal Kingdom never came up at a theatre in Sweden (with the exception for Stockholm film festival which doesn’t count)? Why is it that the theatres in my city week after week show movies such as Johnny English Reborn, Popper’s Penguins, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Final Destination 5? Is there something wrong with people? Or perhaps I should rather ask: is there something wrong with me?
My family probably thought there was as I watched it on my own on DVD one night last week. After finishing I felt this urge to tell everyone else about what I’d just been through.
“This movie was SO awesome!” “You really, really need to watch it!” Please listen to me, it was so GREAT!”
I was probably quite unbearable. To my defense I need to say that it’s not my usual behavior. But this movie pulled me in so completely that I needed an outlet.
Actually this reaction took me a little by surprise because normally I don’t pursuit dark crime movies that contain a shitload of violence. They make me feel sick. But there was something about this Australian film that clicked with me.
It wasn’t just a movie about a bunch of criminals and their brutal confrontations with the equally brutal police squad.
It was equally much a movie about the dynamics of a dysfunctional family and the inner turmoil of the 17 year old J, who is the centre of this story. While he doesn’t say very much and his face most of the time is about as expressionless as the one of Alex in Paranoid Park, we can sense the pressure he’s under and his increasing agony as he’s squeezed between two equally brutal forces and can’t see any way to get out the trap.
There are a few unexpected twists and turns in the events taking place in this movie, so I won’t say too much about the plot. But don’t let yourself be deceived by the slow opening. It takes a while for the tension to build up, but once it was there, it was breathtaking.
I can’t say that I’m particularly familiar with the Australian film scene. While I love Muriel’s Wedding and Picnic at Hanging Rock, I’d find a hard time to spontaneously come up with an Aussie actor. Once upon a time everyone knew about Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, but it’s been a while and I didn’t even like him very much.
The good thing about this lack of knowledge is that it contributed to the feeling of freshness. There wasn’t one single familiar face. No actor carried the burden of association to other movies or roles. They felt real and natural, almost as if it had been a documentary. Among several great acting performances, Ben Mendelsohn deserves a special mentioning. He gave me chills down my spine with his portray of a psychopath, reminding me a little of Gary Oldman in Leon in terms of creepiness.
Animal Kingdom never made it into the theatres. But perhaps I can persuade someone more to watch it on DVD, and for a blogger, that’s all you can hope for.
Animal Kingdom (David Michôd, AU, 2010) My rating: 4,5/5
PS I’ve been reminded that actors I know about such as Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson originate from Australia. This is true, but I tend not to think of them as Australians, since they’ve been in so many international productions. I guess it’s a sign of the fact that movies nowadays are made across the borders.