Hello and welcome to Ryan’s Movie Reviews!
One of my favourite types of movies are those based on true stories. These feature Goodfellas, Selma, BlackKklansman, Hidden Figures and, most recently, American Animals. I saw the trailer and it looked somewhat interesting. I was lucky enough to attend a screening in London followed by a Q&A with director Bart Layton. It was a fantastic experience and I had an amazing time. Here is my review of American Animals.
Directed by Bart Layton and starring Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters is a cinematic depiction of a true crime caper. When Spencer Reinhard begins studying at the University of Transylvania, he discovers a book in the library that is worth $12 million. He tells his best friend, Warren Lipka, who decides the pair, accompanied by Lipka’s other friends, will steal the book and make their millions. However, unforeseen circumstances play their part and the heist goes horribly wrong.
Evan Peters took on the role of Warren Lipka, the brains behind the heist. Evan Peters was very well suited to play Warren Lipka and he was great in this film. Peters acting ability is so brilliant and his talent shone throughout this film, particularly when he was expressing his feelings, like the desire to steal the book or the anger when it all falls apart. Warren’s primary partner in crime was Spencer Reinhard, played by Barry Keoghan. I preferred Keoghan in The Killing of a Sacred Deer (review here), but Keoghan doesn’t have much range. His voice is quite monotonous and depressing and, while that suited the latter part of the film, the half of Spencer being happy and actually kind of enjoying life was just mismatched to Keoghan’s acting ability. Jared Abrahamson played Eric Borsuk, a quiet and reluctant member of the heist. He was well played, especially for being a quiet and shy crew member, but I felt there could have been more of his character. The final heist member was Chas Allen, played brilliantly by Blake Jenner. Allen’s character was reluctant to join and was the most vocal member of the group when it came to not doing the heist. I loved the way that Jenner played Chas as he immersed himself in the role and delivered a good performance.
The music was brilliant throughout the movie. Though it was a little cliché in places (Using ‘A Little Less Conversation’ for the dream heist scene), it overall used good music that was suited to the movie and made it more enjoyable to watch. The best use was ‘Who By Fire’ by Leonard Cohen, for when the police come to arrest the guys for their crimes. It beautifully juxtaposed what was happening in the movie and made for a great scene.
Since the story is something that happened in real life, you can’t really critique it, but you can discuss how it was portrayed on the screen. Honestly, Bart Layton did such a brilliant job with the direction of the film. The opening was so stylish and created a tone of mystery that had me hooked for what would be shown throughout the film. The use of cutting between the men in real life in the present after the crime (with the real Warren Lipka, Spencer Reinhard, Eric Borsuk and Chas Allen in the film) and them describing what happened with Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan playing the younger versions of the men who carried out the heist. The scene transitions were sleek and carried the film nicely, leaving me more invested into what the film was showing. The film showed how the boy’s memory was unreliable and it had the same scene but with different little details in places that made the film more interesting to watch. One of the best parts of the film was seeing how the heist was planned out and how it took place. It was also great to see a Reservoir Dogs reference by code names like Mr Pink (and Chas getting mad about it like Steve Buscemi did). When asked yesterday, Layton explained that one of his biggest influences for the style of his direction in American Animals came from ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, a 1975 movie starring Al Pacino. In Dog Day Afternoon, a bank robbery goes horribly wrong from the start. You can see how Layton draws inspiration from Dog Day Afternoon to bring the story of American Animals to life.
Overall, American Animals gets an 8.2/10 from me. I actually cannot wait to watch this film again. It may have been a little dull in places and could have had more development but makes for a brilliant movie that I thoroughly enjoyed watching.
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Once again, thanks for reading this week’s review. Join me next week for a Black Mirror episode review. See you then!