REVIEW: American Animals

REVIEW: American Animals

10 Sep 2018

American Animals
Director: Bart Layton
Stars: Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters, Ann Dowd, Blake Jenner
Cert: 15A
Running time: 116 mins
Release Date: 7th September 2018
Based on at least one true story, depending on which one of our unreliable narrators you believe. American Animals tells the story of four misfits attempts to steal a number of rare books from a University.
Unique from the offset, the film introduces us to both the stars and their real-life counterparts as you get swept along with the snowballing enthusiasm of the would be “Oceans 4” planning of the daring heist.
The faces of the present day protagonists bearing the scars of consequence anchor your imaginations in a way that the younger versions of themselves were not afforded.
Brilliantly walking the line between fact and fiction, Director Layton who made the excellent 2012 documentary The Imposter builds on the direct to camera trope and misinformation used by “I Toyna” and “Goodfellas” but by having both versions of the characters argue the legitimacy of events, it keeps the audience off balance and doesn’t afford you a chance to take a breath as the plan escalates.
Cinematically self-aware enough to openly mention everything from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs to Rififi, the crew’s preparation stands just a step above “google it”
The film expertly draws out engagement from its audience. One moment forced me to slump in my chair in exhausted relief only for the 3rd act to then ramp up to a sustained period of physically uncomfortable tension.
Movies like this hinge of performances and there isn’t a bad one to be found. Art theft should be a doddle for Evan Peters who has already stolen American Horror Story, along with his Quicksilver cameos being by far the best thing in the recent X-Men movies.
Given the more understated role, Barry Keoghan could have easily found himself in the shadows of the film. Instead, his mix of innocence and intensity command your attention. Having played psychotic in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” here he shifts between artistic idealist and compliant accomplice. His performance is nothing short of phenomenal. Never less than compelling but with both feet planted firmly on the ground. This feels like the break out performance for not just Ireland’s but cinemas’s “next big superstar.”
American Animals is an engaging, tense, at times hilarious look at the ill-conceived plotting of four privileged young men and their attempts to “make them feel special”. Highly recommended.
5 Stars
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- Andy McCarroll @andymc1983