Between a Roar and a Purr: American Animals

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2018 at 16:59

American Animals image

American Animals, written and directed by Bart Layton, takes the heist film into unchartered territory. First of all, the conspirators aren’t suave criminals, they are mainly bored kids. Second, the plot isn’t unrealistically complicated with eight or more criminals: it’s a four-person job. And lastly, these criminals are amateurs in all senses of the word. They are clueless and not heroic. All those elements make for an interesting, if not always compelling, film. 

It’s filmed well, the soundtrack is timeless, and the casting is spot on. The use of the real-life criminals as they are today is good touch. The former co-conspirators make it clear that some of their memories might be less than accurate, and they add a layer of emotional context that keeps the film interesting. The real criminals end up being more interesting than the characters in the film.  

The pacing and inability to make the heist an urgent plot element in a weakness in the film. Another problem is that while I learn about the characters, I don’t care about them or their struggles. They are boring. Moreover, the crime is tacked on to the characters, an afterthought. 

Rating: Matinee
It’s not a great heist film, it’s a moderate successful character study. American Animals is more realistic than most heist movies. I recommend this film, but for contrast also see Hell or High Water where the motivations of the brothers are more compelling and their characters are more completely flushed out than in American Animals. 

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