Animal Kingdom (film)

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Animal Kingdom
Animal kingdom poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Michôd
Produced by Liz Watts
Written by David Michôd
Starring Ben Mendelsohn
Joel Edgerton
Guy Pearce
Luke Ford
Jacki Weaver
Sullivan Stapleton
James Frecheville
Music by Antony Partos
Cinematography Adam Arkapaw
Editing by Luke Doolan
Studio Screen Australia
Porchlight Films
Film Victoria
Screen NSW
Fulcrum Media Finance
Showtime Australia
Distributed by Madman Entertainment
Release dates
  • 22 January 2010 (2010-01-22) (Sundance)
  • 3 June 2010 (2010-06-03)
Running time 112 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget A$5 million[1]
Box office $6,019,846[2]

Animal Kingdom is a 2010 Australian crime drama written and directed by David Michôd, and starring Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, James Frecheville, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, and Sullivan Stapleton. David Michôd's script was inspired by the Pettingill family of Melbourne, Australia, who in 1988 saw the acquittal of Trevor Pettingill in the murder of two Victoria police officers. The film received several awards and nominations with Weaver receiving multiple awards for her performance, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.


After his mother dies from a heroin overdose, 17-year-old Joshua "J" Cody (James Frecheville) asks his estranged grandmother, Janine "Smurf" Cody (Jacki Weaver), for advice about what he should do. She invites him to move in with her, and he accepts. She is the matriarch of a notorious Melbourne crime family comprising her three sons. Her eldest son is an armed robber named Andrew "Pope" Cody (Ben Mendelsohn) in hiding from a group of renegade detectives. The middle brother, Craig (Sullivan Stapleton), is a successful but volatile drug dealer, and youngest brother Darren (Luke Ford) follows the lead of his older brothers.

J's uncle Craig takes J for a drive and at a traffic light, a car pulls up with two young men, one making a few hostile remarks followed by a middle finger salute before taking off, possibly referencing previous altercations. Craig, handing J a handgun, then follows the car to an alley, where the car stops and the man gets out, attempting to provoke a fight between himself and Craig. Instead, Craig prompts J to get out of the car and "show him who's king". Later, Pope's best friend and partner in crime Barry "Baz" Brown (Joel Edgerton) goes to meet Pope at a shopping centre, claiming that he wishes to quit the robbery game and settle down with his family, suggesting that Pope join him and the pair take up stock investment. As Baz goes to leave, he encounters police. After telling them that Pope has left, the police shoot Baz dead. Pope and Craig want revenge, and ask J to steal a car and bring it to Darren's place. J complies, although they refuse to tell him the purpose. The car is then planted in the middle of a road. Two policemen are drawn to the scene, where they are ambushed and killed by Pope, Craig and Darren.

The next day, Pope, Darren and J are arrested and taken in for questioning where J meets Detective Senior Sergeant Nathan Leckie (Guy Pearce) who also leads the armed robbery squad. Leckie, one of the few non-corrupt police officers, shows interest in J's situation and seeks to relieve him from it. The three are later released from custody. Later, Craig has escaped to a friend's house in regional Victoria, where he finds that he is being monitored. Despite an escape attempt, police arrive and kill Craig as he runs away. Meanwhile, under pressure from Pope to do so, J breaks up with his girlfriend Nicky at a bowling alley before Sergeant Leckie arrives and threatens to arrest him for underage drinking. Leckie takes J to a hotel, where he proposes that J be moved to a more permanent witness protection. J turns down the offer.

The situation intensifies. While J is in police custody, Pope kills Nicky with a "hot shot" of heroin (as Darren watches), because he believed incorrectly that she had been talking to the police. When J returns to the house the next morning after spending the night with Leckie, he discovers Nicky's bracelet outside the house. He calls Nicky but hears her mobile phone near the house and realises that she has been killed. Pope also hears the phone and comes outside. J flees the scene, running to Nicky's parents house to escape Pope. Pope chases after him but is unable to catch J who calls on Detective Leckie and is taken into witness protection where he presumably implicates Pope and Darren in the police officers' deaths.

This triggers the arrest of Pope and Darren, who are placed in jail. With Craig and Baz dead and Pope and Darren imprisoned, Smurf decides, "J needs to go," as he is the star witness in the murder case. Smurf uses her connections to procure J's address and organise a police raid on that address where J is in witness protection so that he can be shot and killed. However, J escapes when he sees armed police heading for the building. J then returns to Smurf's house, saying, "I can't live like this," and that he wishes to help free Pope and Darren from jail. To do this, the family's lawyer sets up J's answers to form a hole in the case, forcing the release of the pair from prison. Directly following the court session, Leckie visits J, asking him if he had found his place in the world.

After Pope and Darren's release, J returns to Smurf's home asking to stay. After Smurf lets him in, J goes to greet Pope and Darren before going to his room. Pope enters and begins to talk to him, but is cut off when J shoots him in the head. In the final shot of the film, J returns to the living room to embrace Smurf.


  • James Frecheville as Joshua 'J' Cody, Smurf's grandson and the nephew of Pope, Craig and Darren. He becomes friends with Craig and Darren, but hates Pope.
  • Ben Mendelsohn as Andrew 'Pope' Cody, the, possibly psychopathic, oldest of the brothers and a robber on the run from the police. His best friend and partner-in-crime is Barry Brown.
  • Guy Pearce as Nathan Leckie, one of the few good police officers in Melbourne. He spends the movie trying to convince J not to go into crime.
  • Jacki Weaver as Janine 'Smurf' Cody, the leader of the family and the mother of Pope, Darren and Craig, and the grandmother of J.
  • Joel Edgerton as Barry 'Baz' Brown, Pope's best friend/partner-in-crime. He, and his wife, Cathy, are close friends of the Cody family.
  • Sullivan Stapleton as Craig Cody, the middle brother, a successful drug dealer. He and Darren try to protect J from Pope, who hates him.
  • Luke Ford as Darren Cody, the youngest of the brothers. He is only a few years older than J, and the two were best friends as children. He is the first of the brothers to warm up to J.
  • Dan Wyllie as Ezra White, the family's lawyer who has a hatred for Leckie. The character Ezra White originally appeared as the central character in Michod's 2006 short drama film Ezra White, LL.B., also played by Wyllie.
  • Anthony Hayes as Det. Justin Norris, Leckie's partner who helps J with his situation.
  • Laura Wheelwright as Nicky Henry
  • Mirrah Foulkes as Catherine Brown
  • Justin Rosniak as Det. Randall Roache
  • Susan Prior as Alicia Henry
  • Clayton Jacobson as Gus Emery
  • Anna Lise Phillips as Justine Hopper


The film is loosely inspired by the real life Pettingill family, and by the Walsh Street police shootings that occurred in Melbourne in 1988.[3] Director David Michôd was interested in the underworld in Melbourne and wrote a script titled J in December 2000. Working at Screen NSW Script Development, fellow producer Liz Watts saw potential in the script. Watts said, "It needed more characterization and structure, which he kind of agreed with. It was important to me that he recognize that there was still work to be done on it."[1] Michôd then did a number of draft scripts gaining feedback from many different people in the film industry. Liz Watts then became a producer on the film with a budget of A$5 million from Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Screen NSW and Showtime Australia.[1] The final version of Animal Kingdom did not contain any of the dialogue featured in Michôd's script for J.[4]

Animal Kingdom was filmed in Melbourne, Victoria.[5] The outside funeral scene was filmed in Ivanhoe East, Victoria.[6]


The film's original score was composed by Antony Partos with additional music composed by Sam Petty and David McCormack. It was released on 16 August 2010.[7]

No. Title Length
1. "Animal Kingdom"   2:36
2. "This Is Where I Was" (composed by Sam Petty) 1:43
3. "Barry Brown"   2:07
4. "Prahran"   2:38
5. "Ivanhoe"   4:09
6. "Hawthorn" (composed by Sam Petty) 3:48
7. "Black Pools"   1:34
8. "Fairfield"   2:03
9. "Craig Cody"   3:00
10. "Janine's Little Boy"   2:46
11. "Nicky Henry"   2:33
12. "Descent" (composed by Antony Partos and David McCormack) 5:11
13. "Then and Now"   2:31
14. "Janine Cody"   3:52
15. "Melbourne" (composed by Antony Partos and Sam Petty) 3:11
16. "Joshua Cody"   4:03
17. "End" (composed by Jona Ma) 2:21
Total length:


Animal Kingdom premiered at the 26th Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2010.[8] It later opened in Australia on 3 June 2010.[9][10]

Internationally, the film has been sold to the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Canada and Eastern Europe. It was released in August 2010 in the United States and Latin America by Sony Pictures Classics, grossing a total of $1,030,288 in North America.[2] It was released in Australia on DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats on 13 October 2010. The Blu-ray release available from Madman is region-free.[9]


Animal Kingdom has received overwhelming critical acclaim. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 97% of critics have given the film a positive review, "Certified Fresh", based on 146 reviews, with an average score of 8.1 out of 10. The critical consensus is: "With confident pacing, a smart script, and a top-notch cast, Animal Kingdom represents the best the Australian film industry has to offer."[11]

David Stratton said on At the Movies: "It's so lovely to see a really good Australian film. And we're not admiring this because it's an Australian film, because it's a very good film," adding, "The revelation here is Jacki Weaver, always a fine actor but seldom revealing the depths of character she does here. All the performances are superb, down to the small parts – like Dan Wyllie as the family's lawyer and Anna Lisa Phillips [sic] as Josh's barrister." Stratton and co-host Margaret Pomeranz both gave the film four and a half stars.[12]

Quentin Tarantino listed Animal Kingdom as his third favourite film of 2010, behind Toy Story 3 and The Social Network.[13]

Box office[edit]

The film has grossed US$4,350,187 in Australia.[14] It is the third highest grossing Australian film at the Australian box office for 2010, behind Tomorrow, When the War Began ($9.2 million), and Bran Nue Dae ($7.56 million).[citation needed] Worldwide, the film has grossed US$5,775,563.[2]


Animal Kingdom received 18 nominations for the 2010 Australian Film Institute Awards, across all major feature film categories – a record achievement. On 11 December 2010, Animal Kingdom won a record 10 awards.[15] The film received several other film awards to Jacki Weaver who was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for the 68th Golden Globe Awards. Weaver was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the 83rd Academy Awards.

It was named one of the Top Independent Films of 2010 at the National Board of Review Awards.[16]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[17] 27 February 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
AACTA Awards
(52nd Australian Film Institute Awards)[18]
11 December 2010 Best Film Won
Best Direction David Michôd Won
Best Original Screenplay David Michôd Won
Best Actor Ben Mendelsohn Won
James Frecheville Nominated
Best Actress Jacki Weaver Won
Best Supporting Actor Joel Edgerton Won
Guy Pearce Nominated
Sullivan Stapleton Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Laura Wheelwright Nominated
Best Young Actor James Frecheville Nominated
Best Cinematography Adam Arkapaw Nominated
Best Editing Luke Doolan Won
Reader's Choice Won
Australian Film Institute Members Awards[18] 11 December 2010 Best Film Won
Best Cinematography Adam Arkapaw Nominated
Best Sound Sam Petty, Rob Mackenzie, Philippe Decrausaz,
Leah Katz, Brooke Trezise and Richard Pain
Best Score Antony Partos and Sam Petty Won
Best Production Design Jo Ford Nominated
Best Costume Design Cappi Ireland Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[19] 20 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Most Promising Filmmaker David Michôd Nominated
Chlotrudis Awards[20] 20 March 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Won
Best Original Screenplay David Michôd Nominated
Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[21] 16 January 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Inside Film Awards[22] 14 November 2010 Best Actor Ben Mendelsohn Won
Best Director David Michôd Won
Best Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Best Editing Luke Doolan Nominated
Best Film Nominated
Best Screenplay David Michôd Nominated
Best Sound Robert Mackenzie, Philippe Decrausaz
and Sam Petty
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards[23] 16 December2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[24] 12 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Won
National Board of Review Awards[16] 2 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards[25] 3 January 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards[26] 14 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Satellite Awards[27] 19 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Won
Best Film Nominated
Best Director David Michôd Nominated
Sundance Film Festival[28] 30 January 2010 World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards[29] 6 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Animal Kingdom: fierce creatures". Encore Magazine. 1 June 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "Animal Kingdom (2010) Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  3. ^ "ME 2010 040 13 Sundance Awards-Script". ITN News. 1 February 2010. Archived from the original on 29 June 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Animal Kingdom DVD "Making of..." featurette
  5. ^ "Animal Kingdom". Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "Animal Kingdom press kit" (PDF). p. 9. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Animal Kingdom: Antony Partos, Milan: Music". Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "2010 Sundance Film Festival: Animal Kingdom". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "Animal Kingdom: Official Film Site". Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "Animal Kingdom AU Review". IGN. 2 May 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Animal Kingdom Movie Reviews, Pictures". Flixster. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  12. ^ "At the Movies: Animal Kingdom". 2 June 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  13. ^ Nordyke, Kimberly. "Quentin Tarantino's Surprising Choices for Best Films of 2010". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  14. ^ "Animal Kingdom (2010) – International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  15. ^ Dennehy, Luke (12 December 2010). "Melbourne crime thriller Animal Kingdom earns ten AFI gongs". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "David Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK Tops National Board of Review Awards 2010". ALT Film Guide. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  17. ^ "Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "AFI Award Winners and Nominees". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  19. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Awards – 2008–2010". Chicago Film Critics Association. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  21. ^ "Nominations and Winners – 2010". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  22. ^ "2010 Kodak Inside Film Awards Sydney Nominees". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
    "2010 Kodak Inside Film Awards Sydney Nominees". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  23. ^ Adams, Ryan (16 December 2010). "The Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards". AwardsDaily. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  24. ^ "36th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  25. ^ Stone, Sarah (27 December 2010). "Online Film Critics Society Nominations". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
    Stone, Sarah (3 January 2011). "The Social Network Named Best Film by the Online Film Critics". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  26. ^ "2010 Awards". San Diego Film Critics Society. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  27. ^ "2010 Nominations" (PDF). International Press Academy. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  28. ^ "2010 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards" (PDF). 30 January 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  29. ^ "The 2010 WAFCA Award Winners". Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 

External links[edit]