Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Jacki Weaver as Janine (Smurf) in Animal Kingdom

The subject of David Michôd's icily assured Australian drama is a crime family — a real family, consisting of Mom and her three grown sons. There's hyperactive Craig (Sullivan Stapleton), who sells whatever coke he hasn't snorted; passive accomplice Darren (Luke Ford); and the malignant brains of the outfit, Pope (in a smoothly horrid performance from Ben Mendelsohn), who keeps the rest in line with whispered menace and a killer instinct. But these three are kittens compared to mother Janine, known as Smurf: the Ma Barker of Melbourne. The 63-year-old Jacki Weaver, whose movie career extends back 40 years, to the birth of the Australian new wave (Alvin Purple, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Removalists), brandishes a steely, cheery attitude and a clinging love for her boys that instantly induces pure dread. An agent of iniquity, Smurf can infuse deadly intent into a conversation with a cop at a supermarket checkout counter. She's an ordinary suburban, dead-thrilling kind of bad. And by that we mean great.