AMERICAN ANIMALS is one of 2018’s Best Movies

AMERICAN ANIMALS is a movie I caught at the 2018 Sydney Film Festival back in June and thought i’d review just before the movie released. Oops, this was this past Thursday 4th October. You seriously need to catch this brilliant heist movie that blends interview documentary with narrative retelling in a non-linear storytelling style I just loved. AMERICAN ANIMALS will make my Top 20 for 2018 and if you see it I think you will agree.

The downside is that AMERICAN ANIMALS is on a limited release from Madman Films. Check out the OFFICIAL WEBSITE for all the participating cinemas and session times. It is rated M and runs for 116mins.


American Animals Blake Jenner image
Blake Jenner




American Animals is the mostly true story of four (less than genius) friends who brazenly attempt to execute one of the most audacious art heists in U.S. history.

Centering on unpredictable wildchild Warren (Evan Peters) and aspiring artist Spencer (Barry Keoghan), two friends from the middle-class suburbs of Lexington, Kentucky, the film follows the duo through college life at separate universities, as adult pressures begin to weigh heavily on their futures. Realizing their lives may never be important, they organize the brazen theft of some valuable books from the special collections library of Spencer’s college, including Audubon’s Birds of America, valued at $12 million.

Enlisting two more friends, budding accountant Eric (Jared Abrahamson) and fitness fanatic Chas (Barry Jenner), the gang meticulously plots the theft and subsequent fence of the stolen volumes, taking cues from popular heist movies. But the thieves’ plans go awry, placing their bright futures in limbo. Unfolding from multiple perspectives, and shifting between the “fictionalised” central narrative and documentary-style interviews with the real-life figures on which the story is based, writer-directed Bart Layton (THE IMPOSTER) makes one impressive and intelligent movie crossing multiple genres.


American Animals Evan Peters image
Evan Peters



AMERICAN ANIMALS is one of those stories that is so insane it can’t be made up. It should be one of those crime podcasts that would top all the charts but sadly, due to its release schedule at the cinemas, it won’t be making any of the box office charts. Director Bart Layton received acclaim and attention with his 2012 documentary THE IMPOSTER. While known for documentaries, with AMERICAN ANIMALS he takes a small step to fictional director and blends his strengths with his destination.

Some critics found it jarring but I loved how Layton blends interviews from the real culprits throughout the movie. The non-linear storytelling was engaging and I was impressed by his dedication to tell the story as accurate as possible. Plus the real guys are as good as their acting counterparts.

You gotta love the film tagline……

“This is not based on a true story. This happened.”

Seeing what these guys actually did is mostly hysterical and the film jumps from comedy to heist to thriller to downright stupidity from scene to scene but you remain invested in the characters. The four guys are as far removed from each other as can be, the mind boggles how they all became to support the heist idea. Learning how to perform a heist from Google and watching every heist movie released at the time they still managed to miss a key lesson from nearly all these movies; SOMETHING ALWAYS GOES WRONG!

AMERICAN ANIMALS is wonderfully paced, intelligently made, and the depth of the film provides a simple motive for the guys that makes a lot of sense. They were bored and wanted something to define them, to make them special and have something to remember, the money would have also been a help. They never really considered they would be caught. And I doubt any of them though through what the outcome would be if they were.


American Animals Barry Keoghan image
Barry Keoghan



The casting is impressive and how hard could that be? They literally had the real guys on board so they could find actors who were as close to possible as the real deal. Two of the cast however steal the show; Barry Keoghan always impresses and Evan Peters gives the best performance of his career. He really does manage to capture Warren Lipka and have a lot of fun with the character. I love Peters, there really is nothing he can’t do.

The real guys: Spencer Reihard, Warren Lipka, Eric Borusk and Chas Allen were mesmerising and it is here that Layton’s skill as a documentarian comes to the fore. He manages to get these guys to be more than candid and has them being honest to the point they are making themselves look like idiots, well, maybe except Warren, he is just batshit insane. But in hindsight they were nothing but idiots with a grand plan that was horrendously executed. Their occasional contradictory sections of dialogue highlight how people’s perceptions of things differ in the same situations over time, this was clever and insightful.


American Animals 4 Idiots image
4 Idiots



AMERICAN ANIMALS should have been called “HOW NOT TO PLAN A HEIST.”  These animals or is it idiots? (real and performing) go all out making this one of my favourite movies of 2018. Can’t wait to see it again. Get thee to a cinema and catch it before it disappears.





 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.