Episode Guide

Animal Kingdom

James Frecheville, Jacki Weaver, Ben Mendelsohn and Guy Pearce star in this stark but compelling Australian crime drama from writer-director David Michôd.

When 17-year-old J Cody's (Frecheville) mum dies, he's taken in by his grandmother, who promises to treat him as lovingly as she does her own sons.

This is more troubling than you might expect: Janine 'Smurf' Cody (Weaver) is the fierce matriarch of a Melbourne gangster outfit, who expresses affection for J's uncles by kissing them lingeringly on the mouth in public.

Worse still, Smurf's lads run the gamut from the psychopathic 'Pope' (Mendelsohn) to the hopheadedly dumb Craig (Sullivan Stapleton). They're armed robbers, but Darren (Luke Ford) also deals cocaine (and isn't a stranger to the powder himself). And the local police, almost equally as violently lawless, have the clan under constant surveillance.

Only two influences seem to offer J a way out of this mess: Baz Brown (Joel Edgerton), the brains behind the clan's heists, realises the game's nearly up but has a plan to turn them legit; and sergeant Nathan Leckie (Pearce), one of the few non-corrupt cops, wants to offer J immunity in return for damning evidence against his family.

Animal Kingdom is Michôd's feature-length debut, though he also directed shorts Crossbow and Netherland Dwarf, and co-wrote another memorable short, Spider, which also featured Edgerton. Weaver was Oscar nominated for her role, and the film garnered many other awards and nominations at festivals around the world.

(2010) Cert: 15

Animal Kingdom synopsis

A teenager gradually learns he may have as much to fear from his viciously criminal relatives as he does from the policemen determined to bring them to justice

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