Animal Kingdom Review

Animal Kingdom Review: Crime Pays for TNT's New Drama… Just Not Well

grade_CIf first impressions last, Animal Kingdom is in trouble.

Based on a 2010 Australian movie, the now-SoCal-set TNT drama is well-acted, and the pilot (June 14, 9/8c), sharply directed by co-executive producer John Wells (The West Wing). But the moment it introduces the Codys — a family of outlaws headed by Ellen Barkin as a toughie nicknamed (no kidding) Smurf — they work overtime to make it clear that they’re not just badass, they’re bad, period. Middle son Craig (Ben Robson) and kid brother Deran (Jake Weary, A Deadly Adoption) are a–holes on the highway. They’re a–holes in the ocean. They’re a–holes at their own backyard barbecue. Basically, they’re not people with whom you’d spend time if you didn’t have a gun to your head. (And, given the thieves’ fondness for firearms, that’s not outside the realm of possibility…)

Animal Kingdom ReviewSo when, upon the fatal overdose of Smurf’s estranged daughter, the crime lord takes in 17-year-old grandson J (Finn Cole, Peaky Blinders), you get the queasy feeling that you’re watching a lamb being invited to supper slaughter by a pack of wolves. It can’t end well for him. Hell, in the premiere alone, Grandma puts on one of the kid’s mom’s blouses and all but dares him not to admire her breasts, he gets roped into his first grand theft auto, and his girlfriend is put in a position so creepy, it’ll give you nightmares.

Smurf’s right-hand man, Baz Brown — played by Scott Speedman, who can’t help but be likeable — shows signs of having a soul. So of course no one listens to him. And he’s a pushover, anyway, for Smurf’s oldest boy, Pope (Shawn Hatosy, Fear the Walking Dead). The guy’s freshly sprung from prison after doing three years on a six-year sentence for bank robbery and, to put it mildly, a little off. Yet Baz still gives him a (peripheral) job to do on the gang’s next heist.

Animal Kingdom ReviewWhen the job goes down toward the end of the two-hour opener, it’s hard not to root for the Codys to get busted — or worse. And that seems like it could be a big problem for the series going forward. Bad can be good. It can be fun. It can be thrilling, even. That’s been proven a million times over by characters as diverse as Dallas’ J.R. Ewing and Dexter’s title killer, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Spike and Empire’s Cookie. The thing is, we have to like the baddies. Maybe you’ll dig the Codys. I didn’t.

The TVLine Bottom Line: Sorry. A show can’t be a guilty pleasure if it leaves out the “pleasure” part.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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37 Comments
  1. John Davis says:

    I see white people… ALL THE TIME.

    • Douglas from Brazil says:

      and what’s the problem with white people?

      • johnhelvete says:

        I assume the poster is dismissing the show because of a lack of diversity, though family dramas where the entire main cast minus one (The Speedman character is not biologically related to the rest of the characters as far as I know) usually means the cast is going to be the same race. I often wonder why posters post comments to articles they dont actually read.

        • Xoe says:

          So whatis wrong of ashow to have all actors/actresses white in a show? Tht si notbeing racist. So a TV show cant be all white now because it can be call racist? Gimme me a break!! There are shows that mix white and black people, there is one comedy show that is all about black people.

          So in order not to be racist now each TV show needs to include a black character?

          That is just plain stupid.

          • liame says:

            Why is it always black and white? There are other POC who deserve the to be heard as well. Just because someone makes a comment about lack of diversity someone always assumes it’s coming from someone black. SMH.

          • cherylartmann says:

            I completely agree with you. I am so very sick and tired of a lot of people turning anything and everything into a racial issue! I really like the show, think about it, everyone wants to be bad at some point in their lives because it is exciting.

          • Cheryl Artmann says:

            I completely agree with you. I am so very sick and tired of a lot of people turning anything and everything into a racial issue! I really like the show, think about it, everyone wants to be bad at some point in their lives because it is exciting.

    • c-mo says:

      If this had been cast with an all black cast, it would have been called racist and boycotts would have been called for, This show was basically already done with a Hispanic family, remember Gang Related? I guess it could have been an all Asian cast but that might have been called racist too…

      • Murica! says:

        This show is based on a movie called Animal Kingdom about an Australian crime family! It has nothing to do with gang related.

        Empire is about a black family and that show is great! Noone is boycotting that show because of the black cast. You’re delusional. Not everything is about race and not everyone is racist. Grow up.

        • Cat says:

          The original movies was a very fictionalised version of a true crime in Australia.

        • jazzyt2u says:

          Empire has white people on the show.

          • Murica! says:

            Your point? Is anyone boycotting this show because the main characters are black? No, because it doesn’t matter what colour the actors are.

        • c-mo says:

          I was merely commenting on the “I see white people” comment. I wasn’t commenting about the cast. If a show about a family of violent criminals was cast with all black actors, that show would have been called racist.

  2. Frank says:

    I watched the first hour and it was BORING! TNT is a $hitShow network that should have never cancelled Dallas!

  3. Hellas13 says:

    Seems TV line hates every new show lately.

    • Prada says:

      or maybe the new shows aren’t good lately

    • Boiler says:

      Perhaps rightly so. I actually like that we are hearing their opinions more. In general TNT Drama in a world of hurt and they keep cancelling the shows people actually want to watch

  4. Dave says:

    Disagree completely with this review. The pilot was great.

  5. Lauren says:

    Why can’t Scott Speedman be on a show I actually want to watch?

  6. Trish haynes says:

    The show was awesome. Yeah it’s dark. But it really shows real promise. The man candy aint bad either.😛

  7. A says:

    Loved the pilot. I`m hooked for sure!

  8. wrstlgirl says:

    Love reading your reviews. I’m still going to check the show out and form my own opinion :-) Mostly because I think this is a great cast.

    • It’s great! I don’t know what this reviewer is talking about! It’s tense, the acting is wonderful, the setting is superb and the story line is NEVER boring! Loving it so far! There are so many other shows to hate on besides this one. Way above a “C” grade.

  9. MMD says:

    Thanks for the review. I usually find that remakes of shows like Broadchurch, The Slap or Secrets and Lies, even with some of the same cast, they are usually lousy and not the gems that the originals were. I learned my lesson the hard way after watching Broadchurch’s first season and then trying Gracepoint, even though David Tennant was in both and I liked the cast, I didn’t enjoy it and I couldn’t remember what plot point I had seen on Broadchurch and what on Gracepoint so I was totally confused during season 2. Never again!!

    Sometimes it’s best to leave a British, Aussie, American or wherever gem alone and not try and replicate it.

  10. ChellemaBelle says:

    Not at all interested based on the description (and the brief trailer). Would be much more excited if they brought back Leverage or a show that was smart, fast, fun, and didn’t make you want to take a Dr. No shower.

  11. Dan says:

    After Rizzoli and Isles is over there will be nothing left to watch on TNT. All the new shows look like annoying and unlikable bro-shows.
    Good job Kevin Reilly!

  12. Lisa London says:

    Watched the first half and it was so bad, I gave up. Boring boring boring…

  13. Nick says:

    Disgusting show, I won’t watch again, makes me want to take a shower, ugh!

  14. Heather Wallace says:

    I watched the premier, I thought it was exciting some real life. I think it’s funny one person commented that they felt dirty after watching it and need a shower. I find it awful funny they found this to be dirty but people watch vampire and werewolf shows that are drinking blood, killing humuns, tearing them apart. People don’t find that dirty they want to have sex with them. Don’t get me wrong I watch the vamp shows too. But come on people there will not be anything new for us to watch if they don’t stop cancelling everything. I just
    have to say when he came in the kitchen
    like that….. I’m all in this is my new
    show. The man candy is nice too.

  15. Trina says:

    I love this show. Please keep it. Wait – I love it therefore it’s guaranteed not to last.
    I am going to start “loving” stupid shows so mine will survive for a change.

  16. Jeff Q says:

    The acting and writing is excellent. Ellen Barkin deserves Emmy consideration next year. I was hooked on the show until Smurf’s grandson was pulled into the crime ring. I wanted him to remain ‘pure’. He was studying and being a good kid on his way to college. Guaranteed that the cops will bust the kid and scare him. The only way that the show can redeem itself is turn the kid into an informant.

  17. Mike says:

    The shows good but it is missing something I can’t put a finger on it.. maybe an execute on the best tv show ( breaking bad ) can point out.. i believe there’s just to much wanna be tough guy acting going on for the show to make it very long. The actual current human nature needs to be present. And the midnight female cop playing the angle of police, is a joke broom her quickly she’s a joke.

  18. martin coffey says:

    animal kingdom was agreat 1st season but as bad as ellen barkin looks if wehave to wait until 2017 to see the start of the 2nd season ellen could be dead i mean she already looks half dead my god im 65 i might not be alive why so long waiting for a 2nd season.

  19. Rebecca says:

    I agree. I so wanted them to get busted and for J to be set loose. But now it makes me feel sick..