|Billed as an exciting Australian crime drama, Animal Kingdom falls somewhat short of expectations. The film follows a teenage boy—Joshua (James Frecheville), but everyone just calls him "J"—who, after his mother's sudden death, goes to live with his grandmother (Jacki Weaver) and uncles. Armed robbery is their family business and, after a rogue cop kills one of the uncles, it isn't long before the family involves J in their tangled web of crime and revenge.|
As a character piece, Animal Kingdom provides some good performances and interesting personalities. Jacki Weaver does a great job as the seemingly loving mother and grandmother whose true colors don't show through until the third act. Frecheville too puts in a good performance as the grieving teenager and unwilling accomplice. His performance peaks in the third act as well after he realizes the full extent of his uncles' crimes. Overall though, the film falls flat because there is not a single likable character among the lot (J has his moments, but manages to squander them). In a crime drama, you need to either like and root for the criminals, or like and root for the cops, but Animal Kingdom allows neither. The plotline is vague at best, and the film drags at times.
As her film's only nominee, Weaver's Oscar hopes are not great, and being in a movie no one has seen doesn't help her odds.