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Past Films

American Animals

  • Starring: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson
  • Director: Bart Layton
  • Genre(s): Drama, Crime
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 116 min.

Lexington, Kentucky, 2004: Spencer and Warren dream of remarkable lives beyond their middle-class suburban existence. They head off to colleges in the same town, haunted by the fear they may never be special in any way. Spencer is given a tour of his school’s incredibly valuable rare book collection and describes it all to Warren. Suddenly, it hits them—they could pull off one of the most audacious art thefts in recent history, from the university’s special collections library. Convinced they can get away with it, they recruit two other friends. Suddenly, the dance of knowing what happens if they cross the line becomes all-consuming. [Sundance]

"American Animals is ultimately a fairly straightforward heist movie, albeit a stylish and engaging one."
- A.A. Dowd, AV Club
"A riveting college-boy crime caper that tiggers along on pure movie-movie adrenalin, before U-turning into a sobering reflection on young male privilege and entitlement."
- Guy Lodge, Variety
"Both as a writer and director, Layton delivers the dramatic goods here with the skill of a pro at the top of his game while adding the rueful perspective of time's reassessment of youthful indiscretions; this has to rate among the most accomplished and fully realized big-screen debuts of recent times. "
- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"American Animals is a legitimately exciting, funny, suspenseful, and at one point deeply upsetting crime film, ably demonstrating a command of genre trappings in service of a narrative about people warped by those very clichés. "
- Daniel Schindel, The Film Stage
"'American Animals' is fascinating, funny and, in the end, deep."
- Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post
"'American Animals' evokes the feeling of an anxiety dream, specifically the common one in which you know you've done something bad and irrevocable and now must live with the consequences."
- Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
"Thanks to Layton's filmmaking choices, 'American Animals' ends up being not so much a crime movie as an examination of truth and memory, as well as blame and responsibility."
- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
"Confusing? Not a bit. Writer/director Bart Layton employs all the tricks in the docufiction playbook...[to] create a uniquely tricky heist flick and he makes sure the audience can keep up."
- Bob Mondello, NPR's All Things Considered
"American Animals requires many cuts and perspectives which are second-nature to an accomplished documentarian, yet the drama here also seems effortless and seamlessly integrated."
- Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International
"Vivid is a good word at large, here. There’s a freshness and energy to American Animals."
- Allison Shoemaker, Consequence of Sound
"American Animals is not like other criminal stories and the differences make it one of the summer's freshest, most entertaining films. "
- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
"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."
- Rolling Stone