Movie ReviewsAmerican Animals – A Stylishly Original Crime Thriller

Keith NoakesJune 29, 2018

A true story told in a unique way.

Synopsis: The unbelievable but true story of four young men who brazenly attempt to execute one of the most audacious art heists in U.S. history. (The Orchard)

Starring: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, and Blake Jenner

Writer: Bart Layton

Director: Bart Layton

Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 117mins


This isn’t your typical true story films. I, Tonya tried to do something different with how it told its story in a mockumentary style, using plenty of fun moments and fourth wall breaking. This film fell somewhere in between traditional storytelling and that of I,Tonya for example. The film served as a pseudo-documentary/dramatization of a true story of one of the biggest art heists in U.S. history as told by its real life counterparts, Warren Lipka (Peters), the excitable de facto leader of the group, Spencer Reinhard (Keoghan) the dreamer, Chas Allen (Jenner), the getaway driver, Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson), the brains, and Betty Jean Gooch (Ann Dowd), the librarian at the center of the heist. 

Cutting between interviews between the real people behind the story and the actors playing them, we would get some interesting insight into what these four men were thinking and feeling at certain times, however, they mostly just pointed out the obvious. Focusing on Lipka and Reinhard, the film used different perspectives and created some fourth wall breaking but for the most part was a wasted opportunity as the film did not go nearly far enough with it. While the intercutting with commentary was an original concept for a heist film, it didn’t add all that much to the film and was more of a distraction.

Lipka and Reinhard were fun to watch together as they planned the heist but they couldn’t do it alone which led to them bringing in Allen and Borsuk. The four were supposedly all friends, however, none of their relationships were as believable as they could have been since they were basically thrown together. They were also fun to watch once together though the only problem being that we didn’t get enough of the four of them. All four had their own reasons for participating in the heist although the film failed to explore them with much depth. In fact, none of them had anything close to arcs. This became more apparent later on.

Everything seemed to come easy to them as overconfidence stemming from their young age led them to look past the heist. What they imagined it would be, unsurprisingly, wasn’t exactly what really happened. The heist sequence exposed who they really were while teaching them a lesson about themselves. Most of the emotional beats failed to hit as mentioned before, however, it was still exciting to watch despite being over way too quickly. The rest of the film saw them face the repercussions of their actions. Those familiar with the true story will now the outcome. Out of the entire film, the commentary here was the strongest.

Not only were the characters compelling to watch, the film was also shot in a compelling way by implementing a frenetic style and soundtrack that matched that of the young men. Ultimately, the best part of the film was the performances. Everybody was good, however, not all the characters had equal focus but each did the most with what they had. Peters and Keoghan had more to do as Lipka and Reinhard, however, they and Jenner and Abrahamson as Allen and Borsuk had good chemistry together which made up for their relationship not being as believable as it could have been.

Overall, this was a stylishly original crime thriller with a style that never quite fit with the story. Either way, it was compelling to watch despite its lack of depth because of the good performances and chemistry between its young and talented cast.

Score: 8/10

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