A no-holds barred approach elevates this frightening Tragedy beyond critical success.
As a fan of thoughtful storytelling, I can't tell you how nice it is to see an all-out Tragedy score 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. When you have the dual bummer of the Protagonist failing to reach his goal (Det. Leckie's attempt to take "Pope" down) and the Main Character failing to find emotional fulfillment (Josh turning to crime), the general consensus is that the audience won't take to it. While it has barely made a criminal $6 million worldwide, it cannot be denied the artfulness with which this film was made.
Beyond the tragic ending, the most fascinating aspect of this film was the decision to go with Multiple Influence Characters instead of the traditional single player. By trading this important role from uncle to uncle and eventually to Det. Leckie (Guy Pearce), the film skirts predictability, a technique that only adds to the otherwise tense edge-of-your-seat moments. The only drawback with this approach is the difficulty with which the Relationship Throughline can meaningfully develop. Scattering an argument among several different characters can be done, and it is in this film to a certain degree (the argument of strength vs. weakness), but the end result is often an argument that lacks the clarity of the more traditional approach. That, combined with an emotionally distant Main Character, makes it difficult at times to connect thoroughly with the film.
While it misses opportunities here and there to explore this concept of how best to survive in our kingdom, the film succeeds in its attempt to completely scare the Hell out of you. The unpredictability factor of this story is off the charts and the way it deals with violence is so matter-of-fact as to be more disturbing than most slasher films. If only there were more stories as satisfying and as tragic as this one. In sharp contrast to The Fighter which took a sharp detour off the dark path it had set up, Animal Kingdom maintains direction with confidence and unrelenting uneasiness. So nice to find a Tragedy like this, and even nicer to find a filmmaker who refuses to shy away from one.