American Animals is more of a dissection of a heist than it is an actual heist film. It happened and some rare books were stolen and that is all that is known for sure. The rest is interpretation, reflection, genre mashups with some documentary interviews to ground it all in remembered and misremembered truth.
Evan Peters and the rest of the cast are excellent in giving American Animals the layers of calm, anxiety, angst and delusion needed to pull it all of. That half of the original gang became artists and filmmakers and the others disaffected millennials is not a surprise. The only thing that matters to them is that they achieve that moment that will define the rest of their lives.
American Animals never stops interpreting and defining itself. It is part documentary, fiction and genre mashup. Think Going in Style mashed with Reservoir Dogs, mashed with the Netflix documentary series Evil Genius.
Director Bart Layton pulls it all together with such aplomb that American Animals is the most assured film I’ve seen this year.
It is a memory piece worth remembering.