An Australian thriller about two generations of men in a psychopathic criminal family with a similarly psychopathic matriarch with Guy Pearce as a pestering detective. Sounds fantastic? Unfortunately, David Michôd doesn't exactly live up to the expectations one can have knowing the one sentence synopsis. The film starts out with a promising scene. The Australian version of Deal or No Deal on the television, a young man sits on the couch with his mother. He's staring blankly at the television, with a dishwashing glove on one of his hands. After a few moments, paramedics arrive to take away his mother, dead of a heroine overdose. A few beats later, the man, J (James Frecheville), calls his grandmother (Jacki Weaver) to tell her that his mother has died. Next thing you know, he's living with his uncles (I'm still not quite sure how many...somewhere around four to six) who are involved in various aspects of drug dealing and senseless crime.
In what follows, J develops a relationship with a neighborhood girl whose family he hopes will take him in as their own. This escape from the family business is less successful than he could hope, and his uncles have much to (senselessly) say and do about the ways that J deals with his newfound family and newfound predicaments. The ways that J tries to escape from his uncles' pursuits are absolutely ridiculous and laughable. The resolution, save from an awkwardly melodramatic glance from one of the uncles does redeem the film's narrative a bit.
There's a great set-up and great characters (especially the grandmother, Smurf) written into this project, but the execution is scattered, half-hearted, and poorly acted. The people behind this film would be smart to take this as a springboard and use the characters and situations to start a TV series. 'Tis a shame this jury award winner is the best of world dramatic features the Sundance jury could find.