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American Animals

The perfect heist is a work of fiction.

You could probably call this heist film un-fucking-believable, except that American Animals, Bart Layton’s impressive feature début, really is rooted in fact.

Poster for the absurdist heist drama American AnimalsIt’s 2004 in Lexington, Kentucky, when two university students (Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters) decide to pull off a robbery of precious original editions from their school’s library. How easy it would be, these American idiots think, to sneak these priceless literary landmarks out and sell them on the black market.

The plan is hatched, henchmen are recruited and disguises are created (they dress as old men in hats, coats, gray wigs and beards that fool no one). They’ve found an Amsterdam accomplice (Udo Kier) to fence the books, and plenty of how-to inspiration by renting classic heist films from the local Blockbuster. A nice touch, that.

And so these amateur reservoir dogs begin to execute their master plan with a minimum of talent for the game. Layton directs for maximum suspense and roaring slapstick comedy, and then he adds a brilliantly daring move, with surprises too good to spoil here.

American Animals is a high-style caper that touches a deeper chord of youthful indiscretion and moral imbalance. You won’t be able to stop talking about it.

– Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

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