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Review: American Animals
by Karen Pecota

In collaboration with The Orchard and MoviePass Ventures, the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award-winning documentary director Bart Layton, takes a turn at feature narrative storytelling with their project American Animals.

Based on a true story, Layton's entertaining heist-thriller connects to other generational true-crime films such as, Point Break or Fight Club. The storyline speaks to the millennials search for identity, meaning, and adventure while their thought-provoking questions about truth are not to be missed. The four intelligent but misguided university students featured in American Animals search in all the wrong places for their answers.


It's the fall of 2004, in Lexington, Kentucky. Two buddies, Spencer and Warren, from the middle-class suburbs head to colleges in the same town. A longing to be extra ordinary individuals doing extra ordinary things holds them captive of the possibility they won't be as successful as in their dreams.

Spencer, a history nerd, takes a tour of his school's incredible rare book collection. The seduction of the wealth at stake that the books would render consumes Spencer's every waking thought for days. In his excitement he describes it to Warren.

Jokingly they discuss what it would be like to steal the books from their own school's special collections library. The thought of being the students who pulled off one of the most audacious art-thefts in their day admittedly was met with exhilaration. The absurd naïveté that each boy imagined it possible shows they left their reality check compass at home.

Spencer and Warren were convinced they could get away with the heist with two helpers so they searched high and low for the right "men" to join their escapade. Once the team was put together the intricate planning takes place. Each step is rehearsed to perfection. But, to-be or not-to be the risk-takers they imagine moves them toward possibly fulfilling their dreams.