Maximum Films International has picked up international sales rights on writer-director David Michôd's crime thriller Animal Kingdom, starring Guy Pearce.

Its allied releasing arm, Maximum Films Distribution, will handle the film in Canada. The film goes starts shooting in Melbourne early next year.

The Australia-produced saga explores the Melbourne underworld, where the police are just as dangerous as the criminals. In the midst of the mayhem is
'J' a teenager boy caught between his violent relatives and the police officer who believes he can save 'J'. Other key cast members are Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton and Jackie Weaver.

The film is produced by Liz Watts of Sydney's Porchlight Films with backing from Screen Australia, Film Victoria, the NSW Film and Television Office and Showtime Australia.

Maximum International's Charlotte Mickie, who negotiated the deal, told Screen International that the film promises to pack the same visceral punch of Sexy Beast. 'The script is fantastic,' she said, while noting that Michôd's short film Crossbow 'shows that he knows this world and has a deep sense of empathy for the criminals, the cops and the people caught in between.'

As well, Maximum said she has acquired completed Australian title, Beautiful, which made its market premiere at the AFM. Written and directed by Dean O'Flaherty and produced by Kent Smith And Elene Pepper, the movie stars Peta Wilson (of TV's La Femme Nikita), Debora-Lee Furness and Erick Thomson.

The story involves a purported abduction of three young girls and the two teenagers who take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and reveal the secrets of the corrupt suburban enclave where they live.