“This is not based on a true story. This is a true story” is a title that appears in the opening credits of American Animals. Though it’s not the most bizarre crime case ever, the story of four teenagers who haplessly plan to steal extremely valuable rare books from a university library is so crazy it needs to be true to be credible.
Director Bart Layton (The Imposter) uses innovative devices to recreate the story, including interspersing the action with interview clips from the actual people who are part of the story, including the four men, now in their 30s. It adds an interesting element to the narration.
The actors themselves each give an inspiring performance, with Barry Keoghan (Spencer) and Evan Peters (Warren) particularly good as initiators of the scheme, and Jared Abrahamson (Eric) and Blake Jenner (Chas) coming on board further into the plot and adding emotional variation.
The script is terrific. It’s incredible to think that had these boys not been so naive and inept, they might well have pulled off the greatest heist in American history.
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich