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Sunday, June 19, 2011

ANIMAL KINGDOM (2010)

David Michôd’s debut as megger-scripter is this over-hyped psycho-family crime drama that got kid-glove attention from reviewers & the Sundance crowd (always a bad omen), before quickly (and deservedly) sinking without a trace. It follows the melancholy path of a 17-year old kid (James Frecheville) after his mom O.D.s and he moves in with the criminal gang of Uncles & a Grandmom he hardly knows. Without quite realizing it, he’s soon playing helpmate & go-fer on the family’s scams & vendettas, putting himself and his trusting girlfriend in harm’s way. It’s pretty standard stuff, but Michod can’t make sense out of his tidy set up. What exactly do these career criminals do? He hints at perverse sexual notes: Grams demands big wet kisses from her boys; one Uncle struts around bare-chested. another all but steps into the shower with you.. But it’s all seasoning and no meat. Michod is more comfortable with Guy Pearce’s standard sentimental cop who’s trying to ‘flip’ the boy. The last act tries to shake things up with some nasty dramatic reverses, but Michod can only make these work by having smart characters act dumb or by pulling strings thru inexplicable 'connections.' It all starts to feel like a pitch-presentation for HBO or Showtime on a pilot that didn’t get picked up.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Why not treat yourself to Raoul Walsh's WHITE HEAT/'49 for a classic James Cagney pyschotic gangster with a whopping Mother complex.

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