American Animals is a crime drama film written and directed by Bart Layton. It stars Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Udo Kier, and Ann Dowd

The Story/The Direction:

The film tells the true story a library heist that happened at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky in 2004. This film establishes early that this is not based on a true story and that it IS a true story. Layton intertwines a story format built on conflicting perspectives similar to that of 2017's I, Tonya. The key difference is that the story is being told by the real-life people involved in the crime. This allows for the film to feel fresh with each scene and also feel realistic. The film plays off of a lot of previous heist films that musically flips from Vegas jazz music to high bass electronica. The film is shot with a lot of quick cuts that keep the film moving throughout its runtime and does not feel long. The documentary aspect makes the film ensures that viewers feel for the characters even if they shouldn't as these boys are committing a true crime. 

The Characters:

Spencer Reinhard, Warren Lipka, Eric Borsuk and Chas Allen are played respectively, Keoghan, Peters, Abrahamson, and Jenner. Keoghan plays an artist wanting for a more exciting life. He is fairly gifted but has yet to experience anything to give him inspiration. When he encounters Lipka who brings Reinhard's ideas to life including the possibility of robbing a school library. When their scheme becomes a little too big, he recruits math whiz Borsuk and moneyed jock Allen into the circle to help the scenario happen. All four men do great jobs but the standout is Peters as Lipka. He is able to add sympathy to this goofy and possibly deranged character.

The Flaws:

The biggest issue is the tone of the film as it switches back and forth which can take one out of the film at times. In addition, the film establishes both Lipka and Reinhard but the others fall flat. There was little to no motivation for Borsuk and Allen joining the team from their point of view. They seemed to do it only because of the monetary value and while this may be the reason, nothing is ever established for their backstory. The film establishes both Lipka and Reinhard but the others fall flat. There also is no real message or theme in the film that pushes this film to excellence.


This film is definitely unique as it is not a traditional documentary and it is not a traditional biopic. This film bridges those two genres in the best way possible thanks to Layton's smart, sleek, and sharp writing and direction. The heist is very different from the Ocean's films and that is one of its best qualities. It has very strong performances, especially by Peters. This film is definitely worth checking out in theatres for the entertaining plot and its storytelling. 

Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties

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