Animal Kingdom (film)

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This article is about the 2010 film. For the 1932 film, see The Animal Kingdom.
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
Edited by Luke Doolan
Screen Australia
Porchlight Films
Film Victoria
Screen NSW
Fulcrum Media Finance
Showtime Australia
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • 22 January 2010 (2010-01-22) (Sundance)
  • 3 June 2010 (2010-06-03)
Running time
113 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget $5 million[1]
Box office $6.8 million[2]

Animal Kingdom is a 2010 Australian 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. David Michôd's script was inspired by the Pettingill family of Melbourne, Australia, who in 1991 saw the acquittal of brothers Victor Pierce and Trevor Pettingill (along with 2 others, Anthony Leigh Farrell and Peter David McEvoy) in the 1988 murder of two Victoria police officers. The film was critically acclaimed–it received 36 awards and 39 nominations with Weaver receiving multiple awards for her performance, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.[3]


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.

Smurf is the affectionate matriarch of a Melbourne crime family that uses her home as a base. Family friend "Baz" (Joel Edgerton) leads the group, which specializes in armed robbery. The volatile middle brother, Craig (Sullivan Stapleton), also deals drugs successfully enough to have bought the house for his mother. The youngest brother, Darren (Luke Ford), follows the lead of the others. Her home is being watched by cops who are looking for the oldest son, Andrew "Pope" Cody (Ben Mendelsohn), who is in hiding. Baz teases the cops on stake out.

Craig takes J along to meet with a crooked cop from the drug squad, who tells him to avoid trouble because renegade cops on the armed robbery squad are on the look out for all of them.

Later, Baz goes to meet Pope inside a shopping centre. They discuss quitting the robbery game and settling down. As Baz gets in his car to leave, police approach. After telling them that Pope has left, the police shoot Baz dead without provocation.

Frightened, J and his girlfriend Nicky ask her parents if he can stay with them.

Pope and Craig want revenge, and ask J to steal a car and bring it to Darren's place. J complies, although they keep him in the dark. The car is planted in the middle of a street. 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 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, recognizes J's predicament and begins to lean on him. The three are later released from custody, but J returns to Nicky's parents' home.

Craig has avoided being picked up by the police. Pope, Darren and Smurf meet him at a diner. The four recognize that J is the weak link, that they do not know what he told the police, and that he isn't around to ask.

Craig panics, and calls a friend in the country to buy a gun. A day later he finds that his friend's house is already being monitored. As the police arrive Craig runs through a field, and they gun him down.

Pope and Darren take J to meet their solicitor Ezra. They coach him to not tell the police anything and pressure him to break up with his girlfriend, since she may come under pressure too.

J breaks up with Nicky. Leckie takes J into custody again, where he proposes that J be moved to witness protection. J turns down the offer. Meanwhile, Nicky, unsure what to do, shows up at Smurf's home. Only Pope and Darren are there. Pope invites her in, gives her heroin, questions her, then smothers her to death to keep her silent, to Darren's horror.

When J returns to Smurf's house the next morning after spending the night with Leckie, he discovers Nicky's bracelet outside the house. He calls Nicky's phone, and hears it ringing in a car boot nearby. As he realizes that something is not right, Pope (who has also heard Nicky's phone ring) charges from the house. J flees the scene, running to Nicky's parents house to escape Pope. Pope gets Nicky's address from Darren and arrives in time to smash into Nicky's father's car pulling out of the drive. J flees on foot. J calls on Detective Leckie and is taken into witness protection in a safe house with private security.

Pope and Darren are arrested and jailed. With Craig and Baz dead, Pope and Darren imprisoned, and J potentially being the star witness for the prosecution, Smurf decides, "J needs to go". Smurf uses her connections to procure J's address, and suggests to the corrupt cop that Craig knew that J will implicate him as well.

Police from the drug squad then raid the safe house. J jumps a fence and 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, Ezra, the family's barrister sets up J's answers to form a hole in the prosecution's case.

It is uncertain whether J will testify to assist the police or his uncles. As he is driven in a police van back from court, a cop in the van points an unloaded gun at J's head and pulls the trigger. Leckie sees J before his departure from the safe hotel, and asks him if he has found his place in the world (a reference to an earlier speech by Leckie to J where he uses the weak and the strong creatures in the animal kingdom as a metaphor for J's predicament - the film derives its title from this speech). Pope, Darren and Smurf are asked to celebrate with champagne while being interviewed for television after their controversial acquittal. Smurf sees Leckie in the supermarket and taunts him.

Later, 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 and embraces Smurf - she does not respond.


  • 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 solicitor who hates 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.[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]

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.[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 $4,350,187 in Australia, $1,044,039 in North America and $1,399,756 elsewhere for a total of $6,793,982.[12]

Animal Kingdom received overwhelming critical acclaim, with Weaver's performance being singled out. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 96% of critics gave the film a positive review, "Certified Fresh", based on 152 reviews with an average rating of 8 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."[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," 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.[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 Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[19] 27 February 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
AACTA Awards
(53rd Australian Film Institute Awards)[20]
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[20] 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[21] 20 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Most Promising Filmmaker David Michôd Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[22] 16 January 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Inside Film Awards[23] 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[24] 16 December2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[25] 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[26] 3 January 2011 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards[27] 14 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated
Satellite Awards[28] 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[29] 30 January 2010 World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards[30] 6 December 2010 Best Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver Nominated

TV adaptation[edit]

TNT is developing a TV show inspired by the film with John Wells as a producer.[31] This show will star Scott Speedman, Ellen Barkin, and Shawn Hatosy.

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 "Animal Kingdom (2010) Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  3. ^ "Animal Kingdom (2010)". IMDb. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  4. ^ "ME 2010 040 13 Sundance Awards-Script". ITN News. 1 February 2010. Archived from the original on 29 June 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2010. 
  5. ^ Animal Kingdom DVD "Making of..." featurette
  6. ^ "Animal Kingdom". Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  7. ^ "Animal Kingdom press kit" (PDF). p. 9. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  8. ^ "Animal Kingdom: Antony Partos, Milan: Music". Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "2010 Sundance Film Festival: Animal Kingdom". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "Animal Kingdom: Official Film Site". Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  11. ^ "Animal Kingdom AU Review". IGN. 2 May 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Animal Kingdom Movie Reviews, Pictures". Flixster. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  14. ^ "At the Movies: Animal Kingdom". 2 June 2010. 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". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "David Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK Tops National Board of Review Awards 2010". ALT Film Guide. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  19. ^ "Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  20. ^ a b "AFI Award Winners and Nominees". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  21. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Awards – 2008–2010". Chicago Film Critics Association. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  22. ^ "Nominations and Winners – 2010". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  23. ^ "2010 Kodak Inside Film Awards Sydney Nominees". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
    "2010 Kodak Inside Film Awards Sydney Nominees". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  24. ^ Adams, Ryan (16 December 2010). "The Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards". AwardsDaily. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  25. ^ "36th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  26. ^ 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. 
  27. ^ "2010 Awards". San Diego Film Critics Society. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  28. ^ "2010 Nominations" (PDF). International Press Academy. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  29. ^ "2010 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards" (PDF). 30 January 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  30. ^ "The 2010 WAFCA Award Winners". Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  31. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth. "Ellen Barkin & Scott Speedman to Star in TNT’s ‘Animal Kingdom’". Retrieved August 18, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Maid
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: World Cinema Dramatic
Succeeded by
Happy, Happy