Animal Kingdom (by Jonathan Lisco, 2016) – After the death of his mother, 17-year-old Joshua Cody moves in with his relatives for the start of a new, reckless life.
Fraught with danger and tension, Animal Kingdom makes waves in the gritty drama scene with intriguing family dynamics.
Miss The Sopranos? Meet the Codys. The family-affair crime syndicate is set to turn devious manipulation into an art. Adapted from David Michôd’s critically acclaimed film, Animal Kingdom presents a suburban underworld thriving in plain view, where Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Ellen Barkin) leads the pack.
The story begins the same way, with the matriarch adopting her teenage grandson J (Finn Cole) after his mother dies of a heroin overdose. J eases into the shady family business, where his uncle Baz (Scott Speedman) calls the shots. That is until Janine’s eldest son Pope (Shawn Hatosy) returns from prison, looking to regain his hold on the reins.
Coveting respect and riches, they spurn Smurf’s orders for low-profile jobs and go for the riskier big buck. Their younger brothers Craig (Ben Robson) and Deran (Jake Weary) commit intrepidly to the leg work but reveal ambitions of their own, eyeing money over authority.
Power struggles drive rifts within the brotherhood. Family politics and romantic entanglements put Pope against Baz, while Craig and Deran deal with secrets of their own. Caught in the middle, J finds himself forced to take sides and starts to question his belonging in the game.
It is a tautly strung drama, where dangerous addictions sow domestic discord with unexpected betrayals. But at the end of the day, the maxim “blood is thicker than water” still sums their doctrine. These twisted dynamics make for a consistently gripping watch.
Resorting to extreme measures to keep their family together, they manipulate outsiders into committing their dirty deeds with fear. But it is their own vulnerabilities they are protecting too, which makes their journeys especially captivating. In this, a fine cast evinces as much dark tension as they do, heart.
Moral ambiguity extends beyond the dysfunctional family to the law enforcement, trying to catch their elusive big break. Bold moves are made. Lines are crossed. A cat-and-mouse game, with no clear winner, unfolds to constant surges of adrenaline rush.
Circumstances embolden the Codys and the ones around them, altering their paths for better or worse. What will happen next is no doubt emotive and exhilarating. Of shifting boundaries and changing ranks, a bloody finale effectively heightens the stakes, in anticipation of the dark conclusion that is bound to come.