Early on, writer-director David Michôd serves up "Trainspotting"-like tricks and narration that is beguiling, if rarely apropos. But the actors are something.
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The strength of Animal Kingdom is its slow-building fatalism; the criminals' luck runs out, but then finds depressing extension via an out-of-left-field collaborator. It's a movie that has very little faith in authority, not even in Guy Pearce's righteous detective. The only law here is Darwin's.
A naturalistic drama rich in psychology and attention to details. There's no glamour here, but one false move by anyone can result in death, so tension fills nearly every scene.
Don't be fooled: In this unpeaceable kingdom, the den mama is also ready to eat her young.
Michôd wants a Greek epic but doesn't have the material. Animal Kingdom is a work of obvious ambition, and seeing a debut filmmaker swing for the fences like this is its own kind of moviehead satisfaction.
Because Animal Kingdom is so richly suffused with atmosphere and style, you could almost float right past the deficiencies in its story in an admiring trance.
Animal Kingdom joins in the tradition of brutally unsentimental Australian crime dramas like "The Boys," in which the stakes are low, except to the people staring down the barrel of a gun.
This could have been a slick little thriller. Instead, it evolves into the unfolding of an epic tragedy.
Writer-director David Michôd catches you in a vise and squeezes - hard.
Among the most gripping, well-paced, acted and directed, and generally thrilling of anything that I've seen (yet) this year.