Animal Kingdom on TNT is the Sunny, California Treatment

By | February 22, 2017

Animal Kingdom on TNT gives the dark Australian movie the California treatment replete with muscle cars, sunny beaches, surfing, and long-haired hunks.

Throw in a heavy dose of criminal mayhem and this is a violent summertime joy ride behind the handlebars of a superbike or on top of a gnarly wave.  If that floats your boat, then Animal Kingdom on TNT, which starts its second season on May 30, 2017, might just be your ticket.

Animal Kingdom on TNT is over-the-top So-Cal fun offering splashes of beach boy glitz and glamour in the form of the Cody family of modern day outlaws.  It’s glitzy and glamorous in a brand new Camaro kind of way.  It’s also dangerous, not quite right, and paid for with ripped-off cash.  And the Codys, from all apparent appearances, generally roll in the ripped-off cash.  That is, when their mother, Smurf, played by a very scary Ellen Barkin, lets them have it.  Yes, these young man-boys are on an allowance.  Mom!

Many ladies may like this show in no small part because the Cody men look as though they were ripped straight off the cover of a cheesy romance novel.  Or is that beefy?  The Codys hang out at their mother’s California Dreamin’ house where they park their latest toys which range from ATVs to motorcycles to sixties muscle cars that look like they just rolled off the auction block.  Yes, the Cody boys have good taste in cars.

They also have good taste in food.  Or is that rather that the food at Smurf’s tastes good?  It must be the latter because the boys are over for seemingly every late breakfast, lunch and dinner she whips up. Brothers, let me tell you, stop now while you are ahead because lunch at San Quentin is no pool party at Smurf’s.  Mom!

Beware, however, that Animal Kingdom also washes ashore with heavy overdoses of drug use, bloody violence, and unhinged, psycho behavior.  There are ODs, DOAs, beatings to a bloody pulp, guns, brotherly violence, conflict with mom, threats and acting on those threats.  There are also accidental deaths.  Accidental because Smurf says, “We don’t hurt people.”  Or something like that.  But check that Felony Murder Rule, boys, next time you lawyer-up.

And, somehow, Smurf’s babies all turned out to be boys, and even if they aren’t her own, she takes them in, gives them a home, and tutors them in the Cody’s Neo-Wild West way.  One suspects the Cody family would have benefited from some sugar and spice thrown into the family mix somewhere along the line.  Oh, yeah, there was one along the line, er, the mainline, that ended in an OD and a DOA.  Told ya.  Everything is definitely not nice.

There are so many holes in television’s Animal Kingdom you could drag every five hundred pound safe in California through those flimsy walls.  But what fun would it be if the police were actually any good?  Surveillance, people?  Play this easy game because the police do not.  Every time a Cody could be identified by a living witness, take a shot of your favorite …  Forget that, I’m not responsible for your coma.  The Codys are not exactly hiding out.  I think the phrase is, “No visible means of support.”  And while it is not really an ostentatious display of wealth, everything is customized, bright, sparkly and new.  The thing is, despite their middling flaws, the Codys have one saving grace.  They are cool (again, in that sixteen-year-old boy ogling a Camaro sort of way).

While there is a definite Point Break feel to the proceedings, the show is actually based on the Animal Kingdom movie, an outstanding 2010 Australian film.  In the down under version, the bright lights of Cali are dimmed slightly, the volume down a bit, and the characters more subdued.  These Australian Codys are somehow a bit more down to earth and probably don’t have quite enough money to get along.  Most of the time they are just scraping by.  Hence, the constant plotting and planning of scores and the resulting atmospheric menace.   Danger lurks large in the former penal colony and these Australian Codys are a menacing and psychotic bunch in an under-the-radar sort of way.  It is an authentic and gritty peek behind the curtains of a very dysfunctional house.

Smurf, like her house in Oz, is not nearly as glamorous as her California cousin, but this Australian Smurf shares a firm and unyielding hold on her criminal enterprise.

A central figure to both versions is the character, Pope.  While neither are saints, California’s Pope, a hard case played by Shawn Hatosy, is overtly violent and mentally ill.  Think of his character in Alpha Dog.  The Australian version, played in an understated way by Ben Mendelsohn, is more stealthy.  In fact, he does not seem to be all that bad initially, not even that unreasonable of a type of guy, and maybe even normal.  But within that facade is a deeply plotting and conniving psycho waiting to be unleashed.  Unleashed, but in control.  He is an unnerving figure.

The Australian character that most closely matches his Golden State brethren is, Craig Cody.  In both the television show and the Animal Kingdom movie, both actors portray him as a psycho to the hilt.  It would also be an unforgivable omission not to mention the very greasy lawyer the Aussie Codys apparently have on a never ending retainer.  Unforgivable, simply because I have something of a thing for very greasy lawyers on film.  Is that weird?

Anyway, normal people get caught in the wake of the Codys regardless of where the Pacific Ocean washes up on their shores. The result is usually not good.  However, watching these mama’s boy psychos from the safety of your living room might be survivable and is actually recommended, be it the film or the television series.  Or both.  Why not?  One is dark and the other is light.  It fits a changeable mood.  You only live once, and with people like the Codys around, that big old clock is ticking.  Hanging out in your living room is just right for channeling the Cody’s way of life, whatever the mood.  All that is missing is lunch.  Mom!


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