Friday, August 06, 2010

Down Underbelly

I never saw any of Underbelly (2008), the Australian Crime drama Series from a few years back. But chances are I would have liked it. I'm well disposed towards the strange little sub-genre its a part of; the Australian Underworld film. The two most prominent examples of which jump straight to mind, each of them impressive and memorable: Rowan Woods' The Boys (1998) and Andrew Dominik's Chopper (2000). While Chopper is something of a genre of its own, The Boys is a more generic-seeming family drama with crime as the setting, machismo thickening the air in every scene, and ultra-violence as a sort of punctuation. But its brilliantly acted, terrifyingly tense, and it maintains an acute sense of place, together with a distinctively downbeat tone, throughout.

Due to its great trailer, a gushing reception at various film Festivals, and the impressive reviews from its American release, a film that has recently crept up on my anticipation-meter is another Australian crime film; David Michod's Animal Kingdom. It even sounds somewhat similar to The Boys
in its plot, and the charged downbeat tone of this terrific trailer only underlines that similarity:

But what really makes Animal Kingdom look worthwhile from this distance is Michod's track record. He is one of the filmmakers responsible for Blue-Tongue Films, an Australian production company made up of like-minded artists who contribute heavily to each other's work. Probably the most famous member of this crew is actor Joel Edgerton, who appears in Animal Kingdom and is best-known Internationally as Owen Lars in the Star Wars prequels. Edgerton also co-wrote and produced a neo-noir in 2008, The Square, directed by his brother Nash. One of Nash Edgerton's previous films was the short Spider, co-written by one David Michod. Michod's work in short film has been ambitious and exceptionally accomplished, and it is what makes me excited about Animal Kingdom. Take Crossbow, made in 2007, the same year as Spider, and a poetic, beautiful and disturbing mood piece, full of great imagery and suffused with unease throughout:

Or Netherland Dwarf, an unexpectedly moving little tragedy, finely observed and with pitch perfect acting and directing choices by Michod :

Animal Kingdom as yet has no UK release date and it doesn't seem to be available on DVD in any territory at present, so I can't get my greasy little mitts on it quite yet. But it looks worth the wait.

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Blogger Mr A. P. Salmond, esq. said...

Underbelly just recently finished season three, and still makes for good viewing. The second season, chronicling the rise of the drug trade in the 70's, is the best so far, but they're all worth watching.

The remarkable thing about The Boys is David Wenham, who has never really equalled his performance in that film. Ever since he's traded on a more reserved persona is his roles.

8:14 am  
Blogger David N said...

Wenham is definitely the stand-out in that cast, but he's made bad choices since - Van Helsing? - and I think he suffers a little for not being your typical macho Aussie leading man. Movies don't really know what to do with him.
Reminds me of David Thewlis, post-Naked.

9:22 am  

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