American Animals (2018)

R Running Time: 116 mins



  • Bart Layton’s second feature film blurs the line between documentary and fictionalized storytelling, uncovering an unbelievable true story of a heist gone wrong.


  • With inconsistent performances from its cast, and something of a messy narrative, American Animals can be a bit of a frustrating film for some viewers to navigate through.


Director Bart Layton's follow up to his genre-defying 2012 documentary The Imposter, is a fascinating true crime thriller about four college friends who sketch out a plan to steal rare and highly valued art prints and rare books from Transylvania University.

Whereas The Imposter found a real-life story of a man who impersonates a family’s missing son, he mines similar outrageous territory here with American Animals, mixing actors and their real-life counterparts into a hybrid film that blurs the lines of fictionalized storytelling and documentary filmmaking.

Though not as sharply constructed as his previous work, Layton remains a compelling filmmaker, who can accelerate or decelerate his story and manipulate his audience at will, leaving us constantly on edge and guessing what may come next.

The performances from the quartet of actors embodying the real-life students unfortunately plays a bit uneven, with performances feeling disjointed from one another and chemistry serving as a struggle at times.

With that said, the story remains fascinating, especially for those who love a good true crime saga. Layton’s balancing act between truth and fictionalized truth may become a bit unwieldy at times, but this story is so rich with drama and surprises, we simply remain hooked in learning the very real truths which American Animals eventually provides us.

American Animals was reviewed as part of the 44th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.


Starring: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Ann Dowd, Udo Kier, Warren Lipka, Spencer Reinhard, Chas Allen, Eric Borsuk.

Director: Bart Layton
Written by: Bart Layton
Release Date: June 1, 2018
The Orchard