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"Things survive because they're strong, and everything reaches an understanding. But not everything survives because it's strong. Some creatures are weak, but they survive because they're being protected by the strong for one reason or another. You may think that, because of the circles you move in or whatever, that you're one of the strong creatures, but you're not, you're one of the weak ones. That's nothing against you, you're just... you're just weak because you're young. But you've survived because you've been protected by the strong."—Leckie, talking to Joshua
Animal Kingdom is an Australian movie from 2010 set in modern-era Melbourne, detailing the life of the Cody family, a bunch of reasonably successful crooks. Following the death of his mother from a heroin overdose, Joshua Cody is taken under his grandmothers' wings and is introduced to a life of crime by his uncles. However, a corrupt police squad who tackle armed robberies are out for blood and start gunning for members of the Cody family which serves to merely accelerate their self-destruction.
With Guy Pearce as the only recognisable actor for most western audiences, the film has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim for its script, acting and cinematography (and won the Sundance Grand Jury prize for drama) despite a meagre budget of only $5 million. Notable for its gritty, oppressive atmosphere and distinctly Australian characters and black sense of humour.
This film provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Janine, Joshua's grandmother. Pope tries to be this way, but he's quite creepy.
- Amoral Attorney: Naturally, the Cody family has one of these on speed-dial. Ezra is a particularly despicable example, being complicit in Craig's drug dealing and the family plot to kill Joshua.
- Anyone Can Die: Baz is killed off suddenly and unexpectedly, and by the end of the film Craig, Pope and in the most unexpected case, Nicky, have all been killed in shocking and unexpected manners.
- Black Comedy Burst: The film is almost unrelentingly atmospheric, and the ever-present soundtrack gives very intense feeling of foreboding. Doesn't stop there being some utterly hilarious moments at the hands of the inept crooks though.
- Blatant Lies: Janine tells the crooked cop that she's "just sick" about the mess that he's in, all the while smirking at him.
- Boxed Crook: Det. Norris, who's boxed by Janine.
- Call Back: Pope carries a sleeping Nicky to bed, strokes her hair, and is caught staring at her in a somewhat predatory way by Joshua immediately afterwards. Later, Pope kills Nicky, strokes her hair, and carries her corpse away. He's caught the next day by Joshua.
- Corrupt Cop: Detective Norris takes drugs and money from the Cody family in exchange for information about police activities. He's later blackmailed by Janine into trying to assassinate Joshua.
- Cowboy Cop: The entire armed robbery unit, who seem to hold no qualms about gunning down suspected criminals in cold blood.
- Creator Cameo: David Michôd appears as a reporter.
- Dull Surprise: Joshua. Done intentionally.
- Evil Matriarch: Janine.
- Famous Last Words: "It's a crazy fucking world."
- Feuding Families: Joshua has had almost no contact with the rest of his family due to an inconsequential drunken argument his mother had with Janine. It's strongly implied that Joshua's mother merely used this as an excuse to let her son escape a life of crime at their hands. To a lesser extent, the Cody brothers are often at odds with, if not directly fighting, each other.
- Gambit Roulette: After his girlfriend is killed and he narrowly escapes assassination at the hands of a corrupt band of policemen whilst under witness protection, Joshua realises he can't testify against his uncles. He also wants revenge on Pope for the murder of his girlfriend, but there's no way Pope will be granted bail. So he decides to get Pope out of jail as quickly as possible so he can kill him by flubbing his testimony after telling the cops he'll co-operate.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Several people get shot in the head, but they quickly disappear and the camera focuses on the blood splatter left behind. It still comes across as pretty graphic.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Joshua seems to have been a crook before he started living with the rest of the Cody clan. The Codys aren't violent until the police execute one of their close friends. Many of the cops are either corrupt or cowardly.
- Heroic BSOD: Inverted with Joshua, who seems to be in a BSOD state for most of the film until he learns Pope murdered his girlfriend, at which point he breaks down sobbing. As we've seen him shrug off the death of friends and even his mother it's telling of the feelings he had for Nicky.
- Ironic Echo: "I want you to be able to talk to me.", first used in a hilarious conversation where Pope suggests Darren might be gay.
- Ironic Nickname: Pope is anything but Pope-like. Smurf might be short, but she's anything but Smurf-like.
- It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Joshua dumps Nicky for he own safety after an increasingly paranoid Pope suspects she may have been talking to the police. It doesn't help.
- Mama Bear: Janine is a terrifying example.
- Man Child:
- 17-year-old Joshua is treated more or less like a child by his family. Baz even has to instruct him on how to wash his hands.
- By the end, a thoroughly jail-raped Darren becomes this, complete with a borderline-thumbsucking habit.
- Noodle Incident: We never see the court scene where the Cody brothers are acquitted for murdering two police officers.
- Parental Incest: Janine loves her sons in a way that is defintely off-putting. Give us a kiss?
- Police Are Useless: Played realistically straight when the lightly armed police protecting Joshua see a bunch of shotgun-toting, flak-jacket-wearing armed response police about to descend on their safehouse.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "It's a crazy fucking world!"
- Ripped from the Headlines: The film is based on a number of Real Life crime families, and there were a number of high profile corruption cases brought against the Melbourne police in the 80's and 90's. The use of an abandoned car to assassinate two police officers is a straight Shout-Out to the Walsh Street shootings.
- Shoot Him! He Has a Wallet!: Barry's death at the hands of the armed robbery unit. They shout, "He's got a gun!" just before executing him.
- Spiritual Successor: To Chopper.
- The Stoic: Joshua goes through most of the film with a gormless expression on his face and seems only to react dimly to stimuli. He finally loses it, crying alone in a toilet, after Pope kills his girlfriend. This also seems to be the moment he Took a Level In Badass.
- Tattooed Crook: Craig.
- X Meets Y: Chopper meets Goodfellas.