American Animals

American Animals isn’t just based on a true story; it is a true story, told as a combined documentary-slash-heist movie about something which actually happened, in Lexington, Kentucky in 2004.

A couple of bored students decide to pull of the perfect heist to give their lives meaning. They are going to steal some $12m worth of rare books from their college library’s unique collection. They watch heist movies and plot the plans, ranging from choosing disguises to organising a fencing deal to get rid of the loot. The movie echoes titbits of heist classics ranging from Ocean’s 11 to Catch Me If You Can to Reservoir Dogs.

The movie switches between the actors playing out the 2004 storyline, and snippets of interviews with the real-life heisters today (and even some of their parents), and they even show up in the film alongside the actors that play them to good effect.

It is a fun movie, well acted, excellently paced, with comedy turning into pain, and thus creating space for the viewer to begin to wonder Why? Was it all just juvenile escapism and misguided naiveté?  And did this director (Bart Layton) succeed in making a group of failed and jailed wannabes, not really worthy of the term criminals let alone con-men, into the stuff of local legend?

★★★½

American Animals
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