"An Awful Plan"
A Review of "American Animals” by Nathan H. Box
Director: Bart Layton, Writer: Bart Layton, Starring: Evan Peters, Ann Dowd, Barry Koeghan
Rating: 3 STARS, STREAM
Four young men mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history.
What if “Ocean’s 11” took place on a college campus? What if instead of professional criminals, four students attempted an audacious heist? What if instead of stealing a casino’s money, these students attempted to steal rare books? These what ifs come to life in “American Animals.”
First off, the opening to this movie is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Edited to show inverted scenes, it sets the tone for the entire film. From there, you are introduced to the real-life characters who made this story possible. At first, you don’t know if you are watching a documentary or a retelling of the original story. The director/writer uses this confusion to interweave a story of distrust, narrators you may not be able to believe, details forgotten, seeds planted but never harvested, and young men way over their heads. I, for one, found this storytelling method enthralling. I love movies where you don’t know if you can trust the person(s) telling the story. It requires the audience to be more than passive observers. Instead, they are asked to be active participants.
Amid this confusion, the story slowly leads to the actual heist. In typical heist-film fashion, the setting is scanned, a plan devised, a team assembled, preparations made, and then we bear witness to something grand or something that is a spectacular failure. Since this is a true story, I don’t think I am spoiling anything here, but in this case, we are treated to the later. As our four would be robbers cross the point of no turning back, we quickly discover there is no way out and how truly awful their plan is. Here is where things get interesting because we learn who was telling the truth and who just couldn’t remember the details.
All in all, this is a film worth your time. It should wet your palate before the Sandra Bullock reboot of the Ocean’s franchise in June. If nothing else, it should inspire you to never steal anything. Why? Because you are probably going to be awful at it.
Be good to each other,
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