Film Review & Trailer: American Animals

Frances Winston reviews American Animals, a heist movie based on a true story of a robbery which had not been thought-through

Directed by: Bart Layton Starring: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Udo Kier, Ann Dowd

This heist flick is based on a true story that you probably haven’t heard of. Indeed, prior to this movie’s release, you would struggle to find much information on it online, unless you were extremely specific in your search terms.Why? Well perhaps because it was a book heist. The criminal ‘not so masterminds’ at the heart of this story stole rare books from Transylvania University’s rare book collection. Admittedly, they were worth millions, but to most people it probably doesn’t appear as sexy as a bank or a jewel heist.

However, American Animals is actually a fascinating story of the ‘you couldn’t make this up’ variety. Basically, four privileged and talented college kids decided that they were going to steal the extremely valuable tomes, and sell them to a collector in Amsterdam.

Dubliner Barry Keoghan plays one of the aspiring thieves, Spencer Reinhard, who along with his lifelong friend, Warren Lipka (Peters) enlists the help of two other friends, Erik Borsuk (Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Jenner) to complete their daring plan. Interestingly, the real-life criminals pop up throughout this, telling their story as the actors play it out.

The actual story is farcical. It is obvious that these guys have no idea what they are doing, and you can tell that the plan is doomed to failure even without looking up the outcome. If the real-life people weren’t on screen confirming that this is what happened, you would think that a screenwriter had taken a lot of dramatic licence. It really is a case of the blind-leading-the-blind. It’s so outlandish that it is ridiculously compelling.

We never really find out what motivated the quartet, and that is still something that is debated, but whatever the reason, when they all came together, it created a perfect storm of chaos and catastrophe. Layton layers on the style and atmosphere, making it all very Ocean’s 11-esque, rather than a ‘college jocks gone bad’ type of flick.

This is outlandish and outrageous, and all the more so because it is true. It looks great, and has some solid performances. An interesting spin on the heist thriller format that will leave you scratching your head as to the stupidity of those involved.

In Cinemas Now! See trailer below:

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