Directed by Bart Layton
Four college kids bungle an ill-conceived heist.
“American Animals feels like a new kind of true-crime thriller,” said Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly. An inventive re-examination of a reckless 2004 rare-books heist carried out by four Kentucky college students, it playfully blends mythmaking and fact, generating an “undeniably fun” viewing experience while striking a deeper chord, too. The bumbling antiheroes are, after all, a particular breed of American dreamers—the kind who aspire to outlawry. Because the real co-conspirators speak on camera about their blundered attempt to pull off a multimillion-dollar robbery of their own university, “you’re repeatedly reminded that these are people whose lives were changed forever by their reckless abandon,” said Kevin Fallon in TheDailyBeast.com. We also come to see the four convicted thieves as unreliable narrators. Unfortunately, the film’s adrenaline-raising dramatizations of their competing recollections are consistently more fun than the interview clips. Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters, and two other fine young actors ensure that the flashback scenes are often sensational, said Guy Lodge in Variety. All in all, “this is unabashedly virtuoso, show-off filmmaking, as cocky as the misguided young men at the film’s center.” ■