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Big Screen | Sundance Hit "Kingdom" Comes To America

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire August 11, 2010 at 1:14AM

Set in the underground of Melbourne, Australia, David Michôd's "Animal Kingdom" received considerable approval at this year's Sundance Film Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize in the festival's World Narrative Competition. Sony Pictures Classics picked up the film shortly thereafter, and is releasing the film Friday with the distributor hoping that "Kingdom" will become a late summer hit on the specialty circuit. Generally, critics should be helpful in making that a potential reality.
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Set in the underground of Melbourne, Australia, David Michôd's "Animal Kingdom" received considerable approval at this year's Sundance Film Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize in the festival's World Narrative Competition. Sony Pictures Classics picked up the film shortly thereafter, and is releasing the film Friday with the distributor hoping that "Kingdom" will become a late summer hit on the specialty circuit. Generally, critics should be helpful in making that a potential reality.

"Equal parts crime thriller, neo-Western and coming-of-age story, the Australian drama 'Animal Kingdom' puts its moral compass into a tailspin," indieWIRE's Eric Kohn writes in his review. "Initially, first time writer-director David Michod introduces a basic sense of right and wrong adopted by the most casual entries in good-versus-evil sagas, but he later endows his cruel world with a fittingly tilted vision of justice."

That vision results from the story of alienated teen Josh (James Frecheville), a teenager who, after the death of his mother, ends up getting tangled up with his gangster uncles. Quickly becoming a player in this world, Josh finds himself at the center of a cold-blooded revenge plot that seriously threatens the family, and which also puts his innocent bystander girlfriend in danger.

The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt calls the film "a naturalistic drama rich in psychology and attention to detail. There's no glamour here, but one false move by anyone can result in death, so tension fills nearly every scene."

Not every critic was totally bowled over by the film, mind you. Its "B" average on criticWIRE makes that quite clear, with 24 grades ranging from an "A" to a "D".

New York Magazine's David Edelstein is one of the critics somewhere in the middle. "Early on, writer-director David Michôd serves up "Trainspotting"-like tricks and narration that is beguiling, if rarely apropos," he writes. "But the actors are something."

The Village Voice's Michael Atkinson is even less impressed. "First-time writer/director David Michôd limns a dank and lost family history in just these few barely conscious gestures, and the toxic fumes of inherited misery fill your head," he writes.

Check out links to some of "Kingdom"'s reviews on the film's page as well as other films opening this weekend (including "Peepli Live," "The People I've Slept With," and studio entry "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World"), plus recent theatrical releases, below. They include synopses, trailers, and a variety of grades and links to reviews.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Peepli Live (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Animal Kingdom (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The People I've Slept With (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C-


criticWIRE: Films Currently In Theaters

Dogtooth (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Alamar (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Mugabe and the White African (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

The Kids Are All Right (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

The Wildest Dream (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Countdown To Zero (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Dry Land (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

[REC] 2 (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Lebanon (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Cairo Time (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Life During Wartime (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Kisses (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Get Low (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The Girl Who Played With Fire (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Middle Men (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Spoken Word (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

The Extra Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

The Concert (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C

Twelve (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: D+


Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

This article is related to: In Theaters






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