American Animals (2018) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
164 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
js-6613028 May 2018
True story this, though the quartet of perpetrators of the most audacious literary crime have trouble keeping their story straight. That's part of the fun in recreating a 2004 Kentucky teenage heist: having the now grown ups involved, recount the events, separated by distance from each other, and time from the deed.

"American Animals" seems too goofy for fact, but as usual, fiction loses out in the strange category. Spencer, Warren, Eric and Chas, (yes Chas), are privileged white boys getting their feet wet at University, itching for the action adult life has promised, which of course, is lacking.

Solution: robbery! Seems the campus library has a twelve million dollar book, and the only obstacle is an elderly librarian. Seeing their fair share of heist movies, the greedy group hatch an elaborate plan to snatch a big bird book from the poorly guarded nest. Convoluted schematics are drawn up. Maquettes are constructed. Ridiculous disguises are made. This is the thrill of their lives, and makes for irresistible film.

Evan Peters as the excitable and sketchy Warren, owns his delicious role, especially when steering the reluctant dreamer Spencer (Barry Keoghan) to the point of no return. Even better are their real counterparts, as they contemplate on the events, and each other, fourteens years on. It's an ingenious bit of movie magic, that could not have been scripted better.
94 out of 142 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A fresh new vision of a weary genre
rorymarsh0014 September 2018
'American Animals' is, formally, a difficult film to describe. It retains the structure of the heist films that came before it, even referencing them from time to time, cementing it as a disciple of those pioneers. Where the film stands out, however, is in the way it tells its story, in a non-linear fashion that seamlessly blends between the reality and fiction of this true-crime narrative. Whereas documentaries often use dramatisations to help visually realise their subject matter, here, these dramatisations take centre stage, supported by the painfully real inflections of those who were actually involved in this 2004 heist. This conflux, use to provide commentary, as well as irregular but welcome flair within the recreated narrative, help to differentiate 'American Animals' from other films of its pedigree. Furthermore, these aforementioned recreations feature standout performances from the likes of Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan, further distancing Layton's film from the somewhat shabby predecessors that deploy similar techniques. On a technical level, the film is fairly regular, lacking inspiration with its cinematography which arguably helps ground the events which it portrays. The score nicely compliments the action on-screen, effectively building upon the tension set up by the visuals. The film can, however, drag in places, particularly during the first act, whereupon it hits familiar story beats that could have been addressed quicker, the time taken with the set-up juxtaposing the otherwise revolutionary approach the film takes to the heist formula. Otherwise, the third act is nothing short of thrilling, with the conclusion proving a melancholic reminder of the reality of these events, and the impact they can carry, with its audacity to allow the audience to decipher the difference between what is true and false. 'American Animals' is a heist film through and through, but differentiates itself from others through the methods by which its tells its story and provides connections between the characters and audience. Whilst the pacing can prove problematic at times, persistence ultimately proves rewarding. Should Layton continue to adopt this unique approach to other genres, he may become a standout in years to come.
29 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the most underrated movies this year so far ..
Aktham_Tashtush14 August 2018
Just a sensational story ,, The script writing is brilliant ,, but the most noticeable was the Directing !!! Bart Layton did both and he did one amazing job.. bringing up the characters themselves telling their side of the story was a nice touch.

Casting Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan was a good move ,, they are both rising stars and they take the job seriously , and here they were engaging and so convincing.

Now my issue is ... the movie went on the big screen at the beginning of this year , toured all around the world festivals, and premiered 1st of June on movie theaters ,, yet .. no sound what so ever ,, the marketing is so bad for this movie ,, or it is hated for some reason ,,, or maybe the critics think this is in a way glorifying crime "which isn't"... I knew about this by accidentally looking for some cast members of "American Horror Stories" and clicked on Evan Peters's IMDB page to see what's new ,and this came up !!!
53 out of 84 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
briner83977 June 2018
Bad title, that would lead most people to assume this movie is about violence and/or debauchery but there's very little of either. I might have been in the right mood but I was mesmerized and give it a 10 score. Based on a true story and yet a fictional retelling. You know basically what's going to happen but never exactly how events will transpire. Not one false emotion or action in this 2-hour film that treats moviegoers like adults (take THAT superheroes and CGI!). What a relief that a story doesn't take place on either coast, nor is it elitist. And although it's in the genre of heist capers this is a totally original setup. No banks, casinos, jewelry, or even cash. The perpetrators aren't sympathetic or unsympathetic, but believable. Also shows, for real, the impact on family and friends when bored young men cook up something exciting. Hitchcock would love American Animals!
66 out of 113 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Interesting take on a heist: truth or fiction? It's fun and sad.
jdesando23 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Welcome to the saddest movie of the year: American Animals. The facile title's suggestion of the metaphoric: that like Darwin's evolution, four young American men, coming from a comfortable middle class, make a "survival" choice to rob a library of treasured books like originals of Audubon's Birds of America and Darwin's Origin of the Species.

The robbers have no notion of propriety or how to pull a heist, despite the films they may have watched Reservoir Dogs and Ocean's 11. One of their t motives is to inject adventure into their lives, and they do to the tune of seven years in the pen.

From detailed crime depictions such as Dog Day Afternoon to Heat, film has recorded the mechanics of robbery enough that even these clueless tyros could have planned better. Although the trailers for American Animals would lead the audience to think this bungled job has a sense of humor, it does not. It is a sad commentary on the willingness of young people to go after the easy way to adventure and wealth when they should know better.

One curious technique first-time-narrative director-writer Bart Leyton uses is to intersperse the action with talking-head commentary from the four original robbers. They are articulate and sympathetic, much as the fine cast is, and therefore add a docudrama authenticity to what might be assumed a casual play with the truth.

On the other hand, the testimonials intrude on the flow of the increasingly tense prelude to the day, and that awkward, tragic day itself. Regardless, it's possible to enjoy the interludes as intriguing testimony to the naiveté and foolishness of these promising young men.

American Animals is a cautionary tale about choosing the lawless, easy way when this incident tells us in the end that crime doesn't pay. Yet, it can be amusing, and it is.
28 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
What a hidden treasure
sheltonemma28 August 2018
Came to this without knowing the story, but having seen The Imposter, it's impressive seeing this director's confident next step. I loved the combination of documentary style with heist movie, characters overlapping and switching in and out of styles and scenes. Evan's energy is frenetic and he seems to really enjoy the role and the supporting cast are great. It's sure to be a cult hit, with a great soundtrack and some very tense and awkward moments that make you cower and cringe at the mistakes and situations these guys got themselves into. It does begger belief its a true story, that these guys pushed themselves over that line, thus changing their lives forever. However, the fact that it is entertaining does not belie the seriousness and sadness that also comes through more by the use of the documentary elements and interviews with the guys and their families, and the librarian. Although it doesn't ever really answer why they all did it, or why they really thought it would be worth it, why they could justify one element in particular, money aside, with any conviction, or maybe that's because it doesn't relate 100% to its audience, though we can still watch with mouths open and it has certainly stayed with me and will definitely recommend a viewing.
14 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Ocean's Eleven" meets "The Social Network" & "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
littlemankazoo17 June 2018
"American Animals" follows a pretty simple story. One about growing-up, friends, young adulthood...

...oh, and robbing a library of books worth millions of dollars...That little detail, too.

I can't say I've ever seen any heist film like this one, though.

What makes this concept so captivating and so unique compared to other legendary heist films like 'Ocean's Eleven', 'The Italian Job' and others is that this film revolves around both a certain sense of nihilism and adolescence. In a way, I would call this film the unholy love-child of "Ocean's Eleven", "The Social Network" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".

The thing that sets this film apart from the others in its genre is just how REAL everything becomes by the time we watch these college kids, all aimless and without a clue, try to chase the American Dream through the most devious way possible. Spearheaded by spectacular leading performances by Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters, this film is not about a heist. Rather, this film is about nihilism, and growing-up in just about the scariest way possible.

The film itself grows-up as we go, as we open with a sense of style and editing that is snappy and fast-paced. The style of young adult; alive and frantic. Everything is bright lights and pop songs, all while our protagonists see themselves as 'good guys' as they plot a heroic heist of a library and its priceless books. The theater I was in was happily rolling-along, audience laughing heartily with the silly antics.

But suddenly, just as we as audiences want to see this heist succeed, and we suddenly see it unfold...the consequences hit. The laughing becomes weaker and weaker until we as audiences reach a similar realization as the characters do; this is real life.

While the film's style of pseudo-documentary mixed with fiction was not exactly the most smoothly-executed (At times it felt jerky and almost gimmicky), it eventually comes back into play as the teaching tool of the entire film. The film's points it chooses to make, both light and dark, are powerful through this very medium. Its pacing and choices of editing, specifically a change by the second half that evolves the entire film into something completely different, were what flipped the proverbial coin for me as an audience member.

The evolving state of this film, the proverbial 'growing-up' it symbolized to me as an audience member, was what truly made it impactful and transcended this film from a "Good" one to a "Great" one.

This film is not about a heist. Rather, it is a film about growing-up THROUGH a heist. Indeed, as many billed it to be, "American Animals" is like no heist film before it. Thankfully, that's for all the right reasons.

I seriously recommend seeing this indie darling of a film. While rough around the edges and lacking an entirely-bulletproof execution, I think this is one of the most interesting films I've seen thus far this year.

It, quite literally, 'grows up' as you watch it.
49 out of 95 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Misunderstood, and outstanding.
betelheise9 January 2019
I guess the people who described American Animals as a dull mediocrity just mistook the concept of an honest and visual reconstruction expecting another Ocean's 11 installment. The plan and actions of Reinhard, Lipka, Borsuk and Allen were inconsistent and not well-thought indeed, but it's not a professional bank robbery saga. This is a very good visualization of a teenage maximalistic approach and an attempt of finding a reason in life which was doomed to become history. Acting is convincing, cinematography beautiful, music will make you go after it when you finish your watching. This movie definitely deserves your attention.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Beautifully told stupidity
florisklaver7626 August 2018
The movie itself is well done in my opinion. The mix between the acted part and the real people talking about their experiences is good, the acting is good. I just can't get over how stupid these boys are, most of them are doing well in school and seem to be bright enough. They are looking for something to make their lives more special instead of just living ordinary lives, going to college, marrying, having kids and so on. But the way they plan the heist is doomed to fail from the start, and it baffles me none of them actually saw that, are they stupid? Or just blinded by the desire to do something 'special'. Worth the watch because it is nicely done but man those boys are stupid.
21 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
How to set yourself up for failure.
winickj14 October 2018
The synopsis on IMDB makes this sound like one of the greatest heists in history. Certainly better than Heat, Ocean's Eleven and a myriad of other heist movies. It was sheer disappointment to watch this film. First off, this is really more of a documentary than anything else, interviews with the real protagonists interspersed with dramatic re-enactments.

The story itself is ok, however the lack of any character development made me not really care about any of them. A great premise, but definitely not a good movie.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
damclean3719 August 2018
I thought this was going to be a run of the mill heist movie, boy was I wrong. The acting, the twisted narrative, the soundtrack and the smart editing were just sensational. I can't remember being grabbed by a movie in this way for quite some time. This has gone into my top 5 of all time. Can't wait to see more from this director and it's baffling that it not get a bigger release.
27 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
America A...holes
mediatext25 June 2018
Oh, my God, $11 and almost 2 hours lost in the stupid story of a group of unfunny assholes! Not a terrible movie, somewhat creative, good acting, not badly written, but... are the 4 dumbest guys in history worth giving them attention, time and money?
70 out of 166 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Tries hard but can't deliver, it's a cringe-fest of stupidity
robertmaybeth10 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I admire the film-makers for choosing the pseudo-documentary style and trying to do something new with it. That said, this movie is D+ in every way and it'd be the very last choice I'd have to watch (narrowly edging out a test pattern).

"Animals" is based on a true story and the real people are really in it. The problem here is the story makes a marginally adequate script that would need to be fleshed out with something or someone unique or ground breaking to make it really work. Instead it's a story of four not-too-smart young men, none of whom has anything compelling, or even remotely interesting about them.

None of them are facing any sort of desperate situation that would push them to crime (drug addiction, debt, etc.) and their only motive for committing the crime in this movie seems to be boredom. So this train doesn't have enough momentum to push it over into even being mildly entertaining - instead it's a cringe-fest of stupidity. Even the music tries to get in on the story; the score is always there to tell us in big bold terms what we ought to be feeling.

But ultimately "Animals" is just disappointing. Their crime is stupid, their motives are stupid, even the method of carrying it out is stupid, and so it came to the point where I myself felt, well STUPID - and even a bit guilty for watching them botching things so horribly. The 4 men in this story have chemistry, of sorts, but ultimately I found it very difficult to even care what happened to them. If the point here is as a lesson for how NOT to commit crime, this movie succeeds in sending that message loud and clear. All in all though, "Animals" is more cringey then entertaining: it's unpleasant to watch, there's not enough humor, the characters are lifeless and dull. This movie has few/no redeeming qualities. If I had it to watch over again I wouldn't - it's not a good use of your time.
69 out of 164 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
truekangenwater25 June 2018
Wow . . . simply put American Animals is by far the Best Film of this Year. Smart, sleek, powerful, mesmerizing, a visual tour de force putting you directly into the story. Or stories. You see this was a true event back in 2003 about four young men, bored and frustrated with life in Kentucky, who mistake their lives as a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history. It is part documentary and recreated narrative all in one. Cleverly woven script with impeccable, precise directing by British writer/director Bart Layton, you are taken on an improbable journey of this true event. Hang on to your hats if you think you know how it will end. Accolades to cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland who lens this film with bold imagination and solid artistic merit. And special mention for a brilliant and gripping musical score by Anne Nikitin. Expect award season to see this film nominated in several categories.
50 out of 115 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Why do you think they call it dope?
mrdogcare19 August 2018
This story was dull, the main characters were more like stoner extras from Cheech and Chong that never get the joke. It wasn't a good caper film, nor a comedy. It was just a sad story about some college friends that completely squandered their opportunities to try and become international thieves like the Hollywood movies they would watch. Can not understand the high reviews.
37 out of 83 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
boring alert
rayan1416119 August 2018
A film about four fools trying to steal from an old lady. I do not know why they produced a film about these fools. A boring film and the only good thing in this movie are the Posters
34 out of 76 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
If you enjoy watching stupid people
jsteiger16 August 2018
This movie features some stylish direction and good production values, but the primary purpose seems to be to showcase the incredible, mind-boggling stupidity of the characters, as well as their complete lack of any kind of moral compass.

What is the purpose of showing, in detail, the inner details of a heist whose perpetrators can't plan for even the most obvious contingencies? Is this supposed to be funny? Ironic? Clever? Regardless, it was simply the most banal cringe fest I've watched in 20 years.
47 out of 113 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An absorbing study of crossing the line
thechair8 September 2018
Wow. It's been a while since any film has gripped me in quite this fashion. At first I was uncertain about the mix of docu and drama but it proved no issue as I was swept along with this absorbing, fascinating and tense true-crime thriller. The slow build is expertly done, adding layer upon layer of tension as the gang move inexorably towards something it seems very few of them are actually thrilled to be a part of. We've all wondered what it would be like to buck the system, cross the line and taste life on the other side (or I have, anyway), and this film does such a great job of illustrating that drive and its inherent dangers. I simply do not understand the accusations of boredom and 1-2 star reviews on here. Each to their own, I guess, but from the soundtrack to the technique to the performances, every facet of this did it for me. Definitely one of the best this year, or any year. Superb.
16 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
meldavies7430 August 2018
All the hype , all the intellectual reviews, all the supposed amazingness of this film and all you get is ...well just utter boredom.

This film thinks its cleverer than it actual is.

Bore central!
36 out of 85 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Kentucky Four
nogodnomasters23 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This is a true story which is re-enacted by actors but told documentary style by the real characters involved. Four college kids plan a robbery of rare books from Transylvania University in Lexington...and not too well. The characters were on the boring side. Dialogue likewise but you to sleep. And robberies that don't go that well, don't make great cinema. Rather than try to make this realistic, they should have added some Hollywood action/drama and maybe make one of the characters a a fitness instructor and race car driver.

Guide: F-word. No sex or nudity.
11 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Refreshing heist movie
dynamiteheaddy-4338721 December 2018
Part movie with strong performances from the cast and part documentary with the actual people involved which really helps you connect with the story. It's interesting to see how we can remember things differently and this movie played on that idea brilliantly. Don't expect a big complex Hollywood heist, this is as real as it gets.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It could have been much better
TheTopDawgCritic15 August 2018
This is novice director/writer Bart Layton's first full length film - previous credits are mainly documentaries, and this was the downfall for this film.

The almost 2 hour length felt like 3 hours and really dragged out with the overly slow pace and unnecessary slo-mo scenes. Adding the real characters made this film feel like part documentary part film, which was annoying. It took away from the stories suspense and thrill as well as the great acting from the lead cast.

Not sure why Bart chose this route, but had he not done so, this film would have been much better. The actual characters should have been introduced towards the end, or as an extra featurette in the DVD release, and he should have just focused on the films story instead of breaking the suspense each time the real life characters popped up.
30 out of 73 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
What a waste of time.
baoboa15 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
There is absolutely nothing interesting, special, cool, artsy etc. about this film. These are 4 of the dumbest people on the planet. A movie about 4 truly idiotic spoiled brats planning a heist, totally botching it and then getting caught?! WOW!! Groundbreaking I tell ya!! Hey, I know, lets commit the crime without disguises and use our parents car... THEN, take our stolen goods, not wear disguises again, drive our own vehicles again, use our actual phone numbers and the same email addresses, get an actual appraisal in a room full of cameras and we're golden! On and on and on... one dumb thing after the next. This sort of crime happens on a daily basis. And only 7 years in federal prison?!!!! Please... What a waste of time and money. NEXT.
48 out of 125 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Very disappointing
frankkaren-301725 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The whole thing was utterly ridiculous, supposedly true but still ridiculous. Four idiots. So many "holes" in the thought process of these four main characters that it's embarrassing to think they actually "walk among us" and believed this heist would have a positive ending. One of the worst movies we've seen this year; we wasted our money and over 2 hrs of our time.
40 out of 102 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
What a dreary 2 hours
lol23425 August 2018
If you're going to write a heist movie, there had better be charm, intricacy or genuine tension.

The story of 4 bland suburban teens trying to steal rare books from a library has none of those. There's no energy, urgency or beauty to engage the viewer. Visually it's a wash of muted colours. Imagine sitting in a dentist's office with faded wallpaper. Kentucky has never looked so ugly.

So what's got people excited? Well, there's a gimmick where they have actors playing 'real people' in this 'true story'. Of course it's all nonsense. The 'real people' are remarkably photogenic and deliver their dialogue with trained inflection. They're also all wearing freshly purchased work clothes. It's obvious they're actors too.

Aside from that, there's a lot of self-indulgent whining. The dialogue hardly crackles. They reference Tarantino a few times, but that only emphasises how bland this script is in comparison. Can no one say anything interesting? Even Audubon's work seems lifeless.

Despite what critics say, this movie is a one note gimmick and deserves a pass.
24 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed