AMERICAN ANIMALS is a pretty good little independent film that is making its way around your local theaters right now. It is based on the true story of four students from Transylvania University that kind of go rogue on their suburban upbringing and decide to steal several very rare, very expensive books from the special collections library that they have at the University. They think it will be easy, since there is essentially no cameras, only motion detectors and the fact that one librarian is the only one that is keeping an eye on the books at all times. They think they have the perfect heist, but little do they realize that even meticulous planning of a heist can go horribly wrong if one thing from your plan doesn’t go as you think. The three most recognizable names from this movie that you might know are Evan Peters (who has been in multiple American Horror Story seasons and plays Quiksilver in the X-Men Films), Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some and he used to be married to Supergirl Melissa Benoist), and Ann Down (who is in fucking everything, from The Handmaid’s Tale to The Leftovers to the recent Hereditary).
What I liked most about this film was that even though actors were playing the real people, the movie is kind of a side documentary as well, because they have the real people involved in that heist doing commentary on what they were thinking at the time and why. And some of them might be unreliable narrators. This storytelling device was brilliant and if not included in this movie, I don’t think the film would’ve worked as well. Seeing the students meticulous planning, from how they are going to steal these rare books to how they are going to sell them without getting caught is very well done. The heist itself is a nail-biting extravaganza. However, we’ve seen heist movies that contain both these devices before, but the fact that they added the real people to give side commentary on the action, I thought was utterly brilliant.
Everybody acting wise is good in this film, but Evan Peters is absolutely fan-fucking-tasting. I know an Oscar nomination doesn’t seem likely since a lot of people haven’t heard of this film, but if it were to be some kind of home video sleeper hit right before awards season, I could see Peters getting a best supporting nomination. He is fantastic and steal every scene he is in, and during the actual heist he is masterful. Obviously because the real men that did the real heist commentating on the whole action laid out before your eyes, obviously means that they probably didn’t get away with it in the end. But it doesn’t make it any less fascinating. It only heightened the experience.
So if this movie is playing near you, I high recommend giving it a whirl. I’m a sucker for heist films, and I’m more of a sucker for true heist films. Just to get inside the mind of these people and why they did what they did is something to marvel. Granted, I know they are bad guys, but wait until you watch the movie before you throw rocks at me sympathizing with some bad people. This was a really strong, really engaging independent film. Maybe they can do the real person commentary for more stories like this.