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  • by Wes Singleton

American Animals, B-


Rated R, 117 minutes

"American Animals" is an overlong but compelling true heist story with a largely unknown cast and director. It's directed and written by Bart Layton in his film debut and looks at some young guys who hatched and executed a plan to steal and sell some priceless books from a college in Kentucky in 2004.

Childhood friends Spencer (Barry Keoghan) and Warren (Evan Peters) rebel against their suburban upbringing. They and two fellow students (Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson) plot to steal priceless Audubon prints and rare books from Transylvania University’s special collections library.

Layton does something unusual with "Animals" that both helps and hurts the story. He incorporates commentary from all of the real individuals throughout the film. In one sense, it can be annoying and a little jarring, but at other times it adds perspective to the story, providing insight as to how they actually remember what happened.

It's well-acted from the cast of unknowns, especially "X-Men's" Peters, the ringleader of the gang, and "Dunkirk's" Keoghan as his more level-headed friend. "American Animals" is a little too long and redundant at times - many unnecessary details are brought out here - but "Animals" is an entertaining portrait of what happens when you don't plan for the unexpected. Worth a look.