Once Upon a Time in Australia

19 Sep 2013: Animal Kingdom (DVD, 2009, David Michôd)

Nothing much new to see here – lumpen criminal family, the comically inept blended with the darkly insidious, backstabbing and revenge and plot twists – but it’s constructed tastefully and earnestly enough that it registers less as a cheap knockoff than as a decent genre piece. Frequent deployments of slow motion and ambient mood music lean a little heavy on the sustain pedal (a bit like a New Age version of a pop song) but do allow reflective emotions to surface where most similar action films choose to steamroll over them, an almost purely biological pleasure whereby the eyes may linger on images and the ears on tones to which the mind (and the body, and the whole person) may build up an actual response. The actors are permitted space to fill out their roles with clearly distinguished characteristics – the sullen son, the overbearing matron, the slovenly brother, etc. – without forcing them into unrelenting (and uniform) internecine imprecation exchanges á la Scorsese. Again there is very little to latch onto as far as lighting schemes or shot decisions – i.e. things which elevate cinema above the mere faces and words and actions of television – and there is little to make this story more worthwhile than the many others it recycles, but maybe it’s the first time this sort of thing is internationally distributed with an Australian milieu, that (as well as already crossed-over actors like Guy Pearce and Joel Edgerton) probably being sufficient reason to cash in and produce it.

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