Animal Kingdom (film)

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Animal Kingdom
Animal kingdom poster.jpg
Theater release poster
Directed byDavid Michôd
Written byDavid Michôd
Produced byLiz Watts
CinematographyAdam Arkapaw
Edited byLuke Doolan
Music byAntony Partos
Distributed byMadman Entertainment
Release dates
  • 22 January 2010 (2010-01-22) (Sundance)
  • 3 June 2010 (2010-06-03)
Running time
113 minutes
Budget$5 million[1]
Box office$7.2 million[2]

Animal Kingdom is a 2010 Australian neo-noir crime drama film written and directed by David Michôd and starring Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, James Frecheville, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, and Sullivan Stapleton.

Michôd's script was inspired by events that involved the Pettingill criminal family of Melbourne, Victoria. In 1991, two brothers Trevor Pettingill and Victor Peirce (along with two other men: Anthony Leigh Farrell and Peter David McEvoy) were acquitted in the 1988 shooting murder of two Victorian police officers.

The film was critically acclaimed and Jacki Weaver received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.[3]


After his mother overdoses, 17-year-old Joshua "J" Cody asks his estranged grandmother, Janine "Smurf" Cody, for help, and she invites him to move in with her. Smurf is the affectionate matriarch of a Melbourne crime family that uses her home as a base. Her home is also being watched by cops who are looking for her oldest son, Andrew "Pope" Cody, who is in hiding. The volatile middle brother, Craig, deals drugs successfully enough to have bought the house for his mother. The youngest brother, Darren, follows the lead of his siblings, while family friend "Baz" leads the gang, which specializes in armed robbery.

Craig takes J along to meet with a crooked cop, from the drug squad, who tells Craig that renegade cops on the armed-robbery squad are on the lookout for all of them. Later, Baz goes to meet Pope at a shopping centre, where they discuss quitting crime and going straight. As Baz gets in his car to leave, police approach, falsely claim he has a gun, and shoot him dead. Angry and distraught, Pope and Craig want revenge and ask J to steal a Commodore and take it to Darren's place. The car is then parked after 2:00 am in the middle of the street as a lure. Two policemen are called to the scene, where they are ambushed and shot dead by Pope and Craig. The next day, Pope, Darren, and J are taken in for questioning, where J meets Detective Senior Sergeant Nathan Leckie, who also leads the armed-robbery squad. Leckie, one of the few non-corrupt police officers, recognises J's predicament and begins to lean on him. The three are later released from custody, and J returns with his girlfriend, Nicky, to her parents' home.

Craig, who has avoided being picked up by the police, meets Pope, Darren, and Smurf at a diner, where they realise J is the weak link. After Smurf suggests Craig give himself up for questioning, he panics and goes to visit a friend in rural Bendigo. Craig learns that the house is already being monitored, and as the police arrive he tries to flee through a field but is gunned down.

Pope and Darren take J to meet their solicitor, Ezra. He coaches J to not tell the police anything and pressures him to break up with Nicky, which J does. Leckie takes J into custody again, where he proposes that J be moved to witness protection, but J turns down the offer. Meanwhile, Nicky, unsure what to do, shows up at Smurf's home, looking for J. Pope gives her heroin, questions her, then suffocates her. When J returns to Smurf's house the next morning he discovers Nicky's bracelet outside the house. He calls Nicky's phone and hearing it ring from the backyard, flees to Nicky's parents' house. Pope gets Nicky's address from Darren and arrives in time to intercept J. J flees on foot and is taken into a safe house. With Craig and Baz dead, Pope and Darren imprisoned, and J potentially the star witness for the prosecution, Smurf decides, "J needs to go". Smurf uses her connections to procure J's address and persuades the corrupt cop to help her. Police from the drug squad then raid the safe house. J jumps a fence and returns to Smurf's house, saying he wishes to help free Pope and Darren from jail. To do this, the family's barrister then coaches J's answers.

After his day in court, Leckie sees J before his departure from the safe hotel and asks him if he's "worked out where he fits" (a reference to Leckie's animal-kingdom metaphor for J's predicament). Pope, Darren, and Smurf celebrate with champagne while being interviewed after their controversial acquittal. Smurf later sees Leckie in the supermarket and taunts him. Later, J returns to Smurf's home, asking to stay 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 scene, J returns to the living room and embraces a now-speechless Smurf.


  • James Frecheville as Joshua "J" Daniel 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 psychopathic eldest brother and a robber on the run from the police. His best friend and partner-in-crime is Barry "Baz" Brown.
  • Guy Pearce as Detective Nathan Leckie, one of the few good police officers in Melbourne. He tries to convince "J" not to become a criminal.
  • Jacki Weaver as Janine "Smurf" Cody, the matriarch of the family, "Pope", Darren and Craig's mother, and "J"'s grandmother.
  • Joel Edgerton as Barry "Baz" Brown, "Pope"'s best friend and partner-in-crime. He and his wife Cathy are close friends of the Cody family.
  • Sullivan Stapleton as Craig Cody, the middle brother and 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".
  • Laura Wheelwright as Nicole "Nicky" Henry, "J"'s girlfriend.
  • Dan Wyllie as Ezra White, the family's solicitor who hates Leckie. The character Ezra White (also played by Wyllie) originally appeared as the central character in Michod's 2006 short drama film Ezra White, LL.B.
  • Anthony Hayes as Detective Justin Norris, Leckie's partner who helps "J" with his situation.
  • Mirrah Foulkes as Catherine "Cathy" Brown, Baz's wife.
  • Justin Rosniak as Detective 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.[4] 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.[5]

Animal Kingdom was filmed in the Melbourne metropolitan area.[6] The outside funeral scene was filmed in Ivanhoe East, Victoria.[7]


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.[8]

1."Animal Kingdom"2:36
2."This Is Where I Was" (composed by Sam Petty)1:43
3."Barry Brown"2:07
6."Hawthorn" (composed by Sam Petty)3:48
7."Black Pools"1:34
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:50:07


Animal Kingdom premiered at the 26th Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2010.[9] It later opened in Australia on 3 June 2010.[10][11]

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.[10]


Animal Kingdom grossed $5,000,018 in Australia, and $2,209,894 elsewhere for a worldwide total of $7,209,912.[2]

Animal Kingdom received overwhelming critical acclaim, especially for the performances of Weaver and Mendelsohn. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a score of 96%, based on 163 reviews, and an average rating of 8.00/10. The website's critical consensus states: "With confident pacing, a smart script, and a top-notch cast, Animal Kingdom represents the best the Australian film industry has to offer."[12] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 33 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[13]

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... 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.[14]

Quentin Tarantino listed Animal Kingdom as his third favourite film of 2010, behind Toy Story 3 and The Social Network.[15]

In 2015, the film was named as one of the top 50 films of the decade so far by The Guardian.[16]


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.[17] 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.[18]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards[3] 27 February 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
AACTA Awards
(53rd Australian Film Institute Awards)[19]
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[19] 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[20] 20 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Most Promising Filmmaker David Michôd 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[18] 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
Saturn Award 23 June 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver 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



Stephen Sewell's novel, Animal Kingdom, A Crime Story (2010), is based on the film.[30]


The American cable network TNT developed an eponymous TV series inspired by the film, with John Wells as a producer,[31] starring Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman, Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robson, Jake Weary, Finn Cole, Daniella Alonso, and Molly Gordon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Animal Kingdom: fierce creatures". Encore Magazine. 1 June 2010. Archived from the original on 5 August 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "Animal Kingdom (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  4. ^ "ME 2010 040 13 Sundance Awards-Script". ITN News. 1 February 2010. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  5. ^ Animal Kingdom DVD "Making of..." featurette
  6. ^ "Animal Kingdom". Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  7. ^ "Animal Kingdom press kit" (PDF). Sony Classics. p. 9. Retrieved 30 January 2010.
  8. ^ "Animal Kingdom: Antony Partos, Milan: Music". Amazon. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  9. ^ "2010 Sundance Film Festival: Animal Kingdom". Sundance Film Festival. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Animal Kingdom: Official Film Site". Archived from the original on 18 June 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  11. ^ "Animal Kingdom AU Review". IGN. 2 May 2010. Archived from the original on 4 May 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Animal Kingdom (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Animal Kingdom Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  14. ^ "At the Movies: Animal Kingdom". 2 June 2010. Archived from the original on 4 August 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  15. ^ Nordyke, Kimberly. "Quentin Tarantino's Surprising Choices for Best Films of 2010". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  16. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (5 January 2015). "Peter Bradshaw's top 50 films of the demi-decade". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  17. ^ Dennehy, Luke (12 December 2010). "Melbourne crime thriller Animal Kingdom earns ten AFI gongs". Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  18. ^ a b "2010 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 10 December 2022.
  19. ^ a b "AFI Award Winners and Nominees". Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  20. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Awards – 2008–2010". Chicago Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on 24 February 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2010.
  21. ^ "Nominations and Winners – 2010". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  22. ^ "2010 Kodak Inside Film Awards Sydney Nominees". Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
    "2010 Kodak Inside Film Awards Sydney Winners". Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. 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. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2010.
  25. ^ Stone, Sasha (27 December 2010). "Online Film Critics Society Nominations". Retrieved 30 January 2011.
    Stone, Sasha (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. Archived from the original on 11 September 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  27. ^ "2010 Nominations" (PDF). International Press Academy. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  28. ^ "2010 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards" (PDF). 30 January 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 December 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2010.
  29. ^ "The 2010 WAFCA Award Winners". Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2022.
  30. ^ Sewell, Stephen (19 July 2010). Animal Kingdom, A Crime Story. Victory Books. ISBN 978-0522858082.
  31. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth. "Ellen Barkin & Scott Speedman to Star in TNT's 'Animal Kingdom'". Variety. Retrieved 18 August 2015.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Preceded by Sundance Grand Jury Prize: World Cinema Dramatic
Succeeded by