animal-kingdom-nov-3rdThis debut film from David Michôd is loosely based on events in Melbourne’s 1990s criminal fraternity. When 17 year old Joshua ‘J’ Cody finds himself alone after his mother’s death from a drugs overdose, he is welcomed by his formidable grandmother Smurf into the criminal family fold. The Cody brothers, Pope, Darren, and Craig, are notorious armed robbers, but Michôd weaves a story of psychological and dramatic intensity which makes it much more than a gangster movie. “The Codys are cinema’s most unsettling gangland fraternity since the Corleones” – Picture House Recommends. (Cert 15)
Dir: David Michôd 108 mins Australia 2010

Programme Notes

Animal Kingdom
Australia 2010 108 minutes Cert. 15

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Festival, this is the debut feature film from David Michôd. It is a fictional account of a Melbourne crime family, the Codys, but Michôd draws closely upon the city’s 1980s crime scene and events at that time. Setting the film apart from a simple cops and robber storyline and its glamorisation, Animal Kingdom has a subtle depiction of the psychology of the Cody clan. Avoiding any nods towards its neighbours across the Pacific Ocean, this is a distinctly Australian story with resonances from its own colonial past. Michôd continues in the Australian narrative style, most recently seen in the 2008 Australian TV series, Underbelly, which was cut from Melbourne’s airwaves in case jurors in criminal trials were influenced.

Jacki Weaver plays the matriarch ‘Smurf’, head of the Cody family, who exhibits an unhealthy dominance over her armed robber and drug dealing sons – posing ‘nature or nurture’ questions. Sons ‘Pope’ Craig and Darren are malevolent, violent and drug fuelled. Into this regressive mix arrives 17 year old Joshua (known as ‘J’), whose mother (Smurf’s sister) has just died from a drug overdose. It becomes clear why J’s mother has protected her son from her family, despite her addiction. ‘J’, a confused and traumatised teenager, becomes the narrator and observer of this group of individuals who live inside their own self imposed prison walls.

Joshua ‘J’ Cody – James Frecheville
Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody – Jacki Weaver
Andrew ‘Pope’ Cody – Ben Mendelsohn
Darren Cody – Luke Ford
Craig Cody – Sullivan Stapleton
Sgt Nathan Leckie – Guy Pearce

Director – David Michôd
Screenplay – David Michôd
Cinematography – Adam Arkapaw
Original Music – Antony Partos
Producer – Liz Watts

“For a film about violent crime, Animal Kingdom is surprisingly low key: the horror is in its intimation of what people will do in the name of kin.” Jonathan Romney, The Independent on Sunday


“This was, without doubt, one of the finest gangster films of the last decade, with stellar performances, an eerie soundtrack and some of the most sensible slow-motion photography ever. Animal Kingdom was a flawless journey into Melbourne’s ‘underbelly’.”

“Hooray! A proper film with a strong story and [all] that – and I only counted two clichés, as well. Would subtitles have helped me understand some of the dialogue?”

“Terrific! Tension maintained right through. Music very good indeed. A far cry from Crocodile Dundee!”

“Great music score!”

“Brilliant performances!”

“Excellent from start to finish – good atmosphere [and] music. Excellent performances all round, especially the matriarch and the young lad. All too believable with their twisted morality – and the police little different from the gangsters. The most enjoyable film I have seen in a while.”

“Absolutely brilliant, if not very nice but couldn’t the crime have been a bit more glamorous?”

“Powerful, unpredictable and tense – horrible situations and violence”

“Very well made but exceptionally bleak. [There were] really no likeable characters.”

“Well crafted – good portrayal of deranged evil.”

“Some good shots!”

“Atmospheric, gripping, depressing – gave a very different impression of Australia [from] the films we usually see.”

“Depressing but well done”

“Ridiculous – I lived in Australia for 20 years and was only involved in 5 brutal killings the whole time [I was there]! A great flick!”

“Very difficult. Atmospheric and believably acted but the music was awful and it was infuriating not being able to understand half the dialogue. So, on balance, I enjoyed this much less than I should have!”

“Storyline hard to follow, as the dialogue was not clear. [Had] the makings of a good film but many of the characters not properly clarified.”

“Not a bad film but I don’t like the letter-box format, as the close-ups cut peoples’ heads off. Let us not have too many of these and make use of the whole screen. Jacki Weaver played a good Lady Macbeth part.”

“Some parallels with the Ned Kelly story?”

Kath and Kim with added violence!”

“Spoiled by poor sound reproduction, making it hard to clarify everybody’s relationship [with each other].”

“I found the music often overpowering and I couldn’t hear the dialogue.”

“I used to say that the good thing about the Society was that it allowed me to see foreign films that I would otherwise not have seen and would enjoy. Now I am not so sure …”

“Horrible – what was there to like?”

“Unadulterated tortuous rubbish – my first E !!”

“Grim people, grim story, grim colours – pretty grim, really!”


A:13, B:15, C:8, D:2, E:2 to give 72%