Film Review – American Animals (2018)

Title – American Animals (2018)

Director – Bart Layton (The Imposter)

Cast – Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd

Plot – Blurring documentary filmmaking with feature film sensibilities, American Animals tells the true story of 4 college students who undertook a daring heist despite never committing a criminal act in their lives after being inspired by their love of movies.

“You’re taught your entire life that what you do matters and that you’re special”

Review by Eddie on 29/01/2019

Filmmaker Bart Layton’s first feature film since the success of his mind-bending documentary The Imposter in 2012, American Animal’s see’s the talented director return to an experience similar to his breakout hit by delivering a narrative that blurs the line between fact and fiction, whilst allowing the real life protagonists at the heart of the story time in the spotlight.

More ambitious in scope than The Imposter in a theatrical sense, Animal’s allows Layton to showcase his growing skills behind the camera and lead a talented young cast of performers to tell the bizarre yet true story of a group of college students planning and enacting upon a heist that they see as their opportunity to “do something” with their lives , despite never before committing any grand criminal acts or without ever giving off the impression they were young men about to commit a dangerous and high profile act criminal act.

Targeting a range of rare books that were a part of the Special Collections section of the Kentucky University, art student Spencer Reinhard (Keoghan), uninterested sporting student and carefree Warren (Peters), wannabe FBI agent Eric (Abrahamson) and rich kid/entrepreneur Chas (Jenner) banded together in the early 2000’s to find a way to rob the library, getaway from the investigation and sell their loot to the black market, but soon discovered the heist life is anything but what they’ve come to expect from their love of movies that inspired their actions.

It’s an intriguing set-up for Layton to build upon and one that would seem far-fetched if it weren’t in fact a reality and the director has a ball playing with conventions as Animal’s narrative plays out with increasing energy and scope, whilst the real life heist gang recount their journey in a talking heads manner, that at times blurs into the film going on around it.

As time wears on it also becomes clearer that Layton isn’t so much interested in the undertakings of the heist (even though the planning stages and execution are well-handed) but more-so the true meaning of what this heist represented for these young men, which gives Animal’s further differentials compared with other heist film’s and also gives it a beating heart, that may not be apparent at first but certainly is come the films latter moments.

Final Say –

A heist film with a difference, American Animal’s is another standout piece of work from Layton, that when combined with solid work from its acting cast and unique structure with its real life subjects, becomes one of the years more memorable and enjoyable outings.

4 Amsterdam trips out of 5

8 responses to “Film Review – American Animals (2018)

  1. I really DIDN’T like this. I thought Eric and Chas’ motivations were unclear and the genre mixing didn’t work. An actual documentary would probably have been more interesting. I think so much more could have been made about the characters remembering things different.

    • I really did enjoy this, as I found it totally unique but your right about a straight up doco, it could’ve been great! Layton seems to be a pretty solid filmmaker, I am very keen to keep a close eye on his career.
      E

  2. Good review! I saw this movie last month and I thought it was just ok. I will admit that the blend of interviews and dramatizations of the real-life events were an interesting story-telling choice. I wonder if more smaller films will adopt this concept?

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