American Animals is not your typical heist, it is far more compelling of a story that unfolds to make you question what you are watching is fact or fiction. For keeping those thoughts rolling around in my head throughout the film, I have to applaud director, Bart Layton.
Meet College students Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan), Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson), and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner). They are alive but barely existing in any sort of meaningful way, hoping to achieve a level above mediocrity. Desperately clinging to have one claim to fame, Warren comes up with the brilliant plan to embark on a group heist to steal rare books worth 12 million dollars from their local library, including Darwin’s; Origins of the Species and a rarity by Audubon called Birds of America. The one target they need to surpass is the watchful librarian; Betty Jean Gooch (played by Ann Dowd).
The story is layered, kind of like a lasagna, which is always a plus. Each character fits into a typical mold (the jock, the artist, the outcast, etc) so in many ways, it can feel relatable, since the struggle to find your identity exists within us all, no matter what stereotype you get labelled under. I also enjoyed the brief interviews that were cut into the film that involved the actual real men telling their own recollection of the events that took place with unbridled emotion. One cannot forget the real Betty Jean Gooch either, who was briefly interviewed as a witness to the crimes that were committed.
There are also throwback a-ha moments when you hear the names Mr Pink and Mr. Black which gives a quick homage to Quentin Tarantino’s gritty film, Reservoir Dogs.
With any action follows a consequence. The aftermath can be good or bad, depending on how you perceive it. Did the punishment of these pseudo-reckless misfits really fit the crime? I think that’s up to the audience to decide. However, in the end, it is true that birds of a feather flock together.