Tag Archives: Animal Kingdom (2010)

Backroads noir in the Australian outback: David Michôd’s The Rover

madmax-1aAustralian director David Michôd’s second film, The Rover, is part of a rich heritage of Australian dystopian cinema that combines the destructive power of cars with the country’s harsh, sparsely populated rural areas and desert interior. A gritty crime drama, it is among the small group of Australian films with a true noir sensibility — a bleak atmosphere and a narrative where events start badly and end up worse — on a brief list that also includes Michôd’s debut 2010 effort, Animal Kingdom.

The Rover is set in the Australian outback 10 years after an unspecified global financial collapse. It opens with a lone, unnamed traveler (Guy Pearce) sitting behind the wheel of his dusty Holden Commodore car, before going into a roadside café. The traveler’s gaunt, weather-beaten features, the café’s ramshackle appearance, its silent, heavily armed Asian owners, and the Cambodian love song booming through the establishment’s aged speakers combine to create a feeling of impending menace and a sense of geographical and cultural confusion.

The film suddenly shifts to three men driving through the desert, fleeing an unspecified crime gone wrong. One of the men, Henry (Scoot McNairy), is angry about having to leave his brother, Rey (Robert Pattinson, of Twilightfame), for dead at the scene of the crime.… Read more

The Rover

image_9eaa6Cars, speed and harsh landscape have been the basis of most locally made dystopian cinema. Think Peter Weir’s 1974 masterpiece, The Cars That Ate Paris, all three Mad Max films, The Chain Reaction (1980) and Brian-Trenchard Smith’s Dead End Drive-In (1986).

To this list we can now add the long awaited second film by Australian director David Michod, The Rover.

Set in the Australian outback “10 years after the collapse”, The Rover opens with a lone unnamed traveller (Guy Pearce), stopping off for water in a roadside cafe. Almost immediately, the film shifts to three men racing through the desert from a heist gone wrong. One of the men, Henry (Scott McNairy), is angry about having to leave his brother, Rey (Robert Pattinson), for dead at the scene of the crime. They start to fight, and their vehicle comes off the road. The three men climb out of their damaged car, grab the first alternative vehicle they see, which just happens to belong to the lone traveller, and take off again.

The traveller’s first words, “I want my car back”, form his mission statement for the rest of the film. Why he needs that particular car is unclear, given that he quickly picks up another functioning vehicle.

The traveller stops at a nearby town to buy a gun.… Read more

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Hear sort of blind sided me. That doesn’t happen very often.

I’d been hearing about it for a while without actually putting all the pieces around it together: an Australian made suspense, partly shot in southern Cambodia, backed by Blue Tongue Films, the outfit behind Animal Kingdom and The Square, two solid local crime films I’d favourably reviewed on this site previously.

I can’t say too much about Wish You Were Here without giving away the plot. It fits nicely into the genre of suspense film dealing with what happens when nice middle class white people go somewhere exotic and exciting, a place where they’re freed from the expectations of their everyday lives, and behave badly, with serious consequences for their mental and physical health.

In this instance, the place is the tourist beach resort of Sihanoukville on Cambodia’s southern coast. The nice middle class people are two couples, pregnant Alice (Felicity Price) and her husband Dave (Blue Tongue regular Joel Edgerton), and Alice’s Younger sister Steph (Teresa Palmer) and her charming and mysterious boyfriend Jeremy (Antony Starr).

Their exciting, carefree holiday adventure is brilliantly established in the first moments of the film, culminating in a drug fuelled dance party. Next thing we see is Dave staggering half naked and blood stained through the harsh dawn light.… Read more

Animal Kingdom

There’ll come a day when the Australian film and television industry will have to create a special award for Melbourne’s crime families in recognition of their services in providing so much rich material for screenwriters. Present to accept the award will be whatever members of the Pettingill family who are not dead or incarcerated.

For those readers not familiar with the name, the Pettingill family were Melbourne’s most notorious crime family. They were involved in drug dealing, murder and armed robbery. Two of the sons stood trial in 1998 for the shooting of a couple of Victorian police officers. They were acquitted but are still widely suspected of committing the killings.

Their exploits have also formed the basis for some of the country’s best crime television, including the ABC series Janus and Phoenix, and more recently the film, Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom is the best known of the three Australian crime films released in 2010. Unusually for an Australian film, not only has it received international critical acclaim (including a Golden Globes nomination for actress Jacki Weaver),  it was a success locally.

Most interestingly, Animal Kingdom, along with Red Hill and The Horseman, the two other local crime releases in 2010, were all made by first time film directors, a big improvement on the lackluster Australian crime cinema scene in 2009.… Read more