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Category:    Home > Reviews > Gangster > Drama > Thriller > Domestic Terrorism > Australia > England > Animal Kingdom (2010/Sony Blu-ray/Region A) + Beautiful Kate (2009/E1 DVD) + Down Terrace (2009/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray + DVD) + The Killing Of Angel St. (1981/Umbrella Entertainment Region Zero/Free/

Animal Kingdom (2010/Sony Blu-ray/Region A) + Beautiful Kate (2009/E1 DVD) + Down Terrace (2009/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray + DVD) + The Killing Of Angel St. (1981/Umbrella Entertainment Region Zero/Free/0 PAL DVD)

 

Picture: C+ (Kingdom: B/Down: B-)†††† Sound: C+ (Kingdom: B/Down: B-)†††† Extras: B/C+/C+/B†††† Films: B/C+/C+/B

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: The Killing Of Angel St. DVD can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Zero/0/Free PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.

 

 

Australian cinema is more than just stuffy films set in the last decade or exploitation films, but dramas and genre films set in modern times have arrived since the 1980s on a normal basis and that includes in the Gangster genre.We now look at four films (three from Down Under) that deal with similar themes in said settings.

 

David Michodís Animal Kingdom (2010) was receiving solid advanced word of mouth as a fine film about an Australian family involved in organized crime and how the naÔve son (James Frecheville) of a female family member lands up with the criminal group when his mother dies of a drug overdose.His grandmother (a clever performance by Jacki Weaver that has received worldwide acclaim) does what she can to help and the family could be at peace with their crimes, but the Codys are about to have their issues with the police and the arrival of a dangerous uncle (Ben Mendelsohn of The New World, Sirens and Black & White) just ups what will soon be madness.

 

Any gangster film or TV show that can be taken seriously is now compared to The Sopranos (succeeding The Godfather, GoodFellas and Scarface for now) but this is a more distinct work like Peter Medakís The Krays (1990) and the great cast (including the underrated Guy Pearce as the head police detective) makes Animal Kingdom more than just a tired genre film.This is more than just because it comes from another country.

 

Beautiful Kate (2009) is directed by actress Rachel Ward (Thorn Birds, Dead Men Donít Wear Plaid) and tells the story about Ned (Ben Mendelsohn again) returning to his family home and has to deal with the past in the ugliest ways.His sick father (Bryan Brown of FX and Gorillas In The Mist) is not ready to deal with Ned and then there is Nedís twin sister Kate (Sophie Lowe) and some ugly secrets that are now starting to come out in the open.Rachel Griffiths of Hillary & Jackie also stars in this drama that like Animal Kingdom shows how unique and distinctive Australian Cinema can be.Though I did not think this always worked, it did more often than not and was an ambitious work worth seeing, especially if you like challenging work.

 

I have included the also mixed Ben Wheatley British gangster film Down Terrace (2009) because it reminded me of both of the above films.It would like to be a success on its own terms, but has problems like Kate that hold it back.Bill and his son Karl have just been released form prison and co-run their criminal empire, which it turns out is having troubles including personal entanglements and the fact that father and son are starting to get on each otherís nerves.


Well acted and cast with actors I have not seen before, the film cannot decide if it is a comedy or serious film and cannot juggle both as The Krays or Coen Brothersí Millerís Crossing (both 1990) could.We have seen some of this before and there is nothing too new here, save the locales.It has some ambitious moments, but it did not add up, did not know how to end and did not stay with me much.

 

That leaves Donald Crombieís The Killing Of Angel St. (1981), a reality-based drama about money and political power ganging up on residents of the title street (fictitious, but meant to represent many such places) that (as many places in the U.S. and U.K. would find themselves suddenly in the 1980s) throwing out poor, defenseless residents so corrupt people could make huge profits and who cares who got hurt.In this case, Jessica Simmonds (a fine performances by Liz Alexander) tries to fight the powers that be, especially when they kill her father, but even joining a group of protesters and communists does not stop how far the people who want to gut the neighborhood for big real estate will go.

 

Intense and also well cast and acted, John Hargreaves (Mad Dog Morgan, Deathcheaters) and Gordon McDougall (Number 96) are among them, this is the kind of hard-hitting film we used to get all the time.The Evan Jones/Michael Craig/Cecil Holmes screenplay is top notch and it is great Umbrella has issued this almost lost film, which has to be at least some kind of minor classic.

 

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Kingdom is easily the best transfer here followed closely by the same on Down, though you would expect that from the only Blu-ray, yet this is a very well-shot by director of Photography Adam Arkapaw in Super 35mm film with good scope compositions throughout that never lets the choice of style get in the way.Down is more styled down and has more detail issues.The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Kingdom is also a good, rich, warm recording with a good soundfield for what is often a dialogue-based film, while the same on Down is warmer than its DVD version but has soundfield limits.The surrounds only kick in when the music goes on.Extras include the featurette Creating Animal Kingdom, a feature-length audio commentary by Director Michod and cast/crew interviews.

 

The anamorphically enhanced DVDs are on par with each other in being good, but a little soft in color or detail. Down and Kate are newer 2.35 X 1 shoots, while Angel is 1.78 X 1, yet Angel has color equal to the others.Kate was shot on 35mm film (Super 35mm is what we gather with limited info as of this posting) and it looks good, but not great.Maybe a Blu-ray would bring out more on Kate, but Director of Photography Andrew Commis has only lensed shorts and documentaries before, so this looks good, especially considering that.The Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on Down and Kate seem a bit weak, more towards the scene than it should be and this is a dialogue-based film.Extras on both include interesting Deleted Scenes while Kate adds Cast/Crew Interviews and both versions of Down add Acting Screen Tests, Camera Tests, the featurette Tricks Of The Amazing Wizards!!!, teaser trailer/festival trailer, a feature-length audio commentary by Director Wheatley and Robin Hill (who co-wrote the screenplay with him) and a short called Rob Loves Kerry.

 

Angel has Dolby 2.0 Mono that is good for its age, but can show its age and sonic limits, yet it sounds like efforts were made to clean this up.Extras include the picture gallery On Angel Street, the original theatrical trailer and a feature-length audio commentary by Director Crombie and co-writer Craig worth hearing all the way through after seeing the film.

 

 

As noted above, you can order The Killing Of Angel St. PAL DVD import exclusively from Umbrella at:

 

http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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