ANIMAL KINGDOM ****1/2
To read some of the writing around town, you would be forgiven for thinking that Animal Kingdom was the second coming of Australian film. In a way, you’d be right. There does seem to be a “new wave” of Australian filmmaking at the moment that is smarter and more relevant than much of the last decade’s worth of content, and Animal Kingdom is being, rightly, seen as leading that charge. David Michod’s debut feature, following on from his exceptional award-winning short Crossbow, is an incredibly assured, confident work that has an epic feel despite being mainly limited to the criminal shenanigans of a single, incredibly warped household. Jacki Weaver gives a career-topping performance as a seriously misguided grand-matriarch overseeing her even more, dangerously misguided grandsons, and Ben Mendohlson, as the most warped, gives us the performance we’ve been waiting from him for years – a laser-sharp portrayal of a man whose mind is completely off the “normal” path but who has no idea that this is the case (which makes him so terrifying). “Early Scorcese” has been bandied about in relation to this remarkable film, and the simile is just, because you can see the influence of that director in many of the film’s set-pieces, as you can the influence (perhaps in a more obvious way) of Paul Thomas Anderson. For any filmmaker, this would be a fine work; for a debuting filmmaker, this is indeed some kind of masterpiece. See it in the cinema – it was made to be seen there, amongst others, straight through, in the dark.