Movie Review: 'American Animals'

By: 
John Thomas

The four young men dream of having a life changing experience. In reality that dreamed experience becomes a nightmare. The cozy “living-at-home” college life they all lead is like a story for a movie. At the outset, little could they have imagined that their sequestered, happy life would turn upside down, and in fact, become the basis for a movie. This life changing experience, the one that will leave them with fond and exciting memories to last a lifetime, is to steal a book of illustrations painted by John James Audubon, valued at $12 million. American Animals is not based on a true story, it is a true story.

Spencer (Barry Keoghan), is bored out of his mind as he struggles along on a guided tour of the university library. Entering the rare books room, carefully guarded by Betty Jean Gooch (Ann Down), his interest is awakened by glancing at a huge book locked in a glass case. The book is opened to a double-page illustration of a flamingo, painted by the world famous painter of birds, John James Audubon.

Later that day, this discovery is mentioned to Spencer’s friend Warren (Evan Peters). Instantly, Warren becomes intrigued by the idea of the book, how lightly it is guarded and most of all, its value. Stealing the book could be “the experience” they’ve been looking for. They soon realize that they are going to need help with this heist, but on whom to call? Eric (Jared Abrahamson), who else! He has skills that will allow this job to move forward, but how to convince him to join this endeavor? Eventually he acquiesces, and now there are three.

Continuing to plan, they soon come to feel they need a fourth partner, someone to purchase and drive a getaway vehicle. Again, who this time? They try to convince Chas (Blake Jenner) to join their team, and eventually they succeed. The planning goes forward: “We need duct tape, plastic ties, wigs, makeup, old clothes, rope, a taser, and oh yes, a fence for the books.” They now are planning to take more than just the Audubon book.

Finally after meeting with a pack of shady characters, a tenuous fence is found in the Netherlands – the meeting to take place in a dreary little coffee shop. Warren discusses the arrangements with the fence who is dubious about the entire transaction – he doesn’t know what he is fencing and senses Warren doesn’t really know what he’s doing. They agree anyway.

Back in Kentucky, the four meet again to finalize their plan for the soon-to-take-place heist. They’re ready and at the library, but oops, there’s a snag – back down, for now. They readjust things and plan to proceed the following day. Does their plan work or does it go awry? If the ending were to be to revealed now, it would spoil the “Keystone Kops in Kentucky” closure to American Animals. Enough that the four boys did have their life changing experience, one that will remain with them their entire lives.

Directed by Bart Layton (Credits: The Impostor, Locked Up TV) this is a “should see” movie running 116 Minutes.

johan@beachcomber.news

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