FILM REVIEW: American Animals starring Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner & Jared Abrahamson


UK RELEASE: 7/9/18

What distinguishes British writer/director Bart Layton’s docu-film of a real life library heist is that it’s told from multiple points of view and we’re never really sure who is telling the truth.

  • Read on for reasons including why this film will leave you feeling sick to the stomach

During the film’s opening credits the words: ‘This film is not based on real events’ appear with the ‘not’ almost immediately disappearing to reinforce the sense of uncertainty about exactly what we are seeing.

What we do know is that in 2004 a gang of four high school students interrupted their exams to attempt to steal rare books worth millions of dollars from the University of Transylvania library in Kentucky, injuring the librarian who was in sole charge of such precious literature.

Each of the real-life students appear, as well as members of their family, a teacher and that librarian, to add testimony to the story we see re-enacted by actors.

The beating heart of the piece is Evan Peters, especially impressive serving up crazy in TV’s American Horror Story, who plays a drop-out jock whose parents are divorcing and is susceptible to the far-out suggestions of his best friend.

Barry Keoghan is especially convincing as the art student who is looking for something seismic to define his life and feels that to be a truly great artist he needs to have some life experience, suffering preferable.

They enlist two further oddballs (Blake Jenner may be familiar from TV’s Glee as a regular jock) and tortured Abrahamson again excels as the brains of the operation.

The quartet study classic heist movies to plan their sting and most fun is had during a Reservoir Dogs riff as the big day to be carried out in ageing make-up and costumes beckons.

The memorable soundtrack is used well and the overriding impression is of lessons learned after choosing to act both selfishly and violently.

It’s a story well suited to this big screen adaptation and Layton’s treatment makes for a fine film that thrills but also makes the audience feel sick to the stomach as the inevitable conclusion is painfully realised.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy American Animals. Tickets
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