Animal Kingdom is a 2010 Australian crime drama written and directed by David Michôd, and starring Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Sullivan Stapleton, Jacki Weaver and James Frecheville. Michôd's script was inspired by the Pettingill family of Melbourne, Australia, who in 1988 saw the acquital of Trevor Pettingill in the murder of two Victoria police officers. The film received several awards and nominations with Weaver receiving multiple awards for her performance, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
After his mother dies from an overdose of heroin, 17-year-old Joshua 'J' Cody asks his estranged grandmother, Janine 'Smurf' Cody, for advice about what he should do. She invites him to move in with her, and he accepts. She is the matriarch of a notorious Melbourne crime family, further consisting of her three sons. Her eldest son is an armed robber named Andrew 'Pope' Cody, and is in hiding from a group of renegade detectives. The middle brother, Craig, is a successful but volatile drug dealer, and youngest brother Darren follows the lead of his older brothers.
J's uncle Craig takes J for a drive and is insulted at a set of traffic lights by a man in a neighboring car. After handing J a handgun, Craig follows the man and his accomplice to an alley, where the car pulls up and the man gets out, attempting to provoke a fight between himself and Craig. Instead, Craig prompts J to get out of the car and scare off the assailant. Later, Pope's best friend and partner in crime Barry 'Baz' Brown goes to meet Pope at a shopping center claiming that he wishes to quit the robbery game and settle down with his family, suggesting that Pope join him and the pair take up stock investment. As Baz goes to leave, he is encountered by police. After telling the police that Pope has left, the police shoot Baz dead. Pope and Craig want revenge, and ask J to steal a car and bring it to the middle of a road. J complies, although they refuse to tell him the purpose. Two policemen are drawn to the scene, where they are ambushed and killed by Pope, Craig and Darren.
The next day, Pope, Darren and J are arrested and taken in for questioning where J meets Detective Senior Sergeant Nathan Leckie (who also leads the armed robbery squad), who takes interest in J's situation and seeks to relieve him from it. The three are later released from custody. Later, Craig has escaped to a friend's house in regional Victoria, where he finds that he is being monitored. Despite an escape attempt, police arrive and kill Craig as he runs away. Meanwhile, J is arrested by Sergeant Leckie for underage drinking and is taken to a hotel for temporary housing. There, Leckie proposes that J be moved to a more permanent witness protection. J turns down the offer.
The situation intensifies. While J is in police custody, Pope kills J's girlfriend, Nicky (Laura Wheelwright), as Darren watches because he incorrectly thought she had been talking to the police. This triggers the arrest of Pope and Darren, who are placed in jail. With Craig and Baz dead and Pope and Darren imprisoned, Smurf decides, "J needs to go," as he is the star witness in the murder case and indeed their armed robbery charges. Smurf uses her connections to procure J's address and organize a raid on that address where J will be shot and killed, but J escapes when he sees armed police heading for the building. J then returns to Smurf's house, saying, "I can't live like this," and that he wishes to help free Pope and Darren from jail. To do this, the family's lawyer sets up J's answers so that a hole can be formed in the case, forcing the release of the pair from prison. Directly following the court session, Leckie visits J, asking him if he had found his place in the world.
After Pope and Darren's release, J returns to Smurf's home asking to stay. After Smurf lets him in, J goes to greet Pope and Darren before going to his room. Pope enters and begins to talk to him, but is cut off when J shoots him in the head. In the final shot of the film, J returns to the living room to embrace Smurf.
NOTE: You might need to watch this movie again in the future. Make sure to include Animal Kingdom [Blu-ray] in your movie collection.
Cast overview, first billed only:
James Frecheville ... Joshua 'J' Cody
Bryce Lindemann ... Paramedic #1
Paul Smits ... Paramedic #2
Jacki Weaver ... Janine 'Smurf' Cody
Joel Edgerton ... Barry 'Baz' Brown
Luke Ford ... Darren Cody
Sullivan Stapleton ... Craig Cody
Mirrah Foulkes ... Catherine Brown
Anthony Ahern ... Armed Robbery Detective
Justin Rosniak ... Detective Randall Roache
Michael Vice ... Hood #1
Chris Weir ... Hood #2
Laura Wheelwright ... Nicky Henry
Sarah Nguyen ... Waitress
Lucia Cai ... Cashier
Directed by David Michôd
Produced by Liz Watts
Written by David Michôd