Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Australia, 2010. Porchlight Films, Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Screen NSW, Fulcrum Media Finance, Showtime Australia. Screenplay by David Michod. Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw. Produced by Liz Watts. Music by Antony Partos. Production Design by Josephine Ford. Costume Design by Cappi Ireland. Film Editing by Luke Doolan. Academy Awards 2010. Golden Globe Awards 2010. National Board of Review Awards 2010. New York Film Critics Awards 2010. Washington Film Critics Awards 2010.
In this marvelously intense crime drama, J (James Frecheville) is a young man whose mother has just died and left him completely alone. With no one else to turn to, he calls his grandmother Janine “Smurf” Cody (Jacki Weaver), from whom his mother had tried to protect him for years, and asks to return to her corrupt fold. This complicated clan also includes her three criminal sons with whom Smurf is almost incestuously obsessed, and J is immediately caught up in the whirlwind of activity as eldest uncle Pope (Ben Mendelsohn in a wonderfully terrifying performance) and his younger siblings arrange robberies and kill people. Meanwhile, a police officer (Guy Pearce) befriends J and does his best to save him from his own relatives. It’s an epic crime drama of the kind you’ve seen before, but you haven’t seen it quite this way: the emotional tension between the characters is palpably jarring, and the terror of anticipating unpleasant events is enough to make you hold your breath throughout. All the acting is superb, particularly Weaver as the pint-sized matriarch with the iron visage and sing-songy voice; she is instantly adorable and petrifying at the same time, and the character is a rich creation that has deservedly established her name outside of Oz and made her a critical hit worldwide.