DVD: Animal Kingdom (18)

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The Independent Culture

Smurf, Jacki Weaver's sly, unhinged Melbourne mobster, suggests that her son, Andrew "Pope" Cody (Ben Mendelsohn), should start taking his pills again. I should say so.

Mendelsohn, so good as a thug in 1996's Idiot Box, excels as a sociopath in David Michôd's stomach-churningly tense and fearsome crime drama. The plot centres on a stoned youth, Josh Cody (James Frencheville), and his bank-robbing family. We first see a spaced-out Josh watching a quiz show, with his mum slouched next to him on the sofa, dead from a heroin overdose.

The confused youth calls his grandma, Smurf, for a place to stay. Big mistake, as Julia Roberts once memorably pointed out. The bottle-blonde Smurf passive-aggressively oversees the outfit, with Barry "Baz" Brown as the level-headed "brains" who wants out of the game. When Baz is inevitably blasted away in his car by the cops, it leaves poor Josh and his girlfriend, Alicia (Susan Prior) prey to his savage, rapidly unravelling uncles – Craig, Darren and particularly Pope. It appears only Guy Pearce's decent cop can offer him a way out. A compelling slice of family dysfunction and terror.