Rising stars Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and Evan Peters (American Horror Story) lead this enthralling true-crime thriller that is as thematically probing as it is straight-up propulsive.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
In 2003, a bored American college student visits his university library and tours a private collection of art and literature valued in the millions. A matter of months (and several crime movie marathons) later, he and three friends will don disguises and attempt one of the most audacious art heists in recent American history. It’s a real-life set-up so juicily cinematic that it virtually demands its pulse-pounding Hollywood treatment, but also one so loaded with psychological curiosity that you feel equally compelled to sit down with the subjects and hear what on earth they were thinking. Acclaimed documentarian Bart Layton slyly gives us both with this slick, suspenseful heist thriller which playfully alternates between fireworks from an ensemble of rising actors, and older but wiser recollections from the real-life perpetrators. — JF
“[This is] ideal material for Layton, whose 2012 hybrid documentary The Imposter [NZIFF12] hinged on the tension between facts and subjective storytelling. In American Animals, Layton brings that same preoccupation to a (mostly) narrative form for the first time, and the results are sensational: a riveting college-boy crime caper that speeds along on pure movie-movie adrenalin, before U-turning into a sobering reflection on young male privilege and entitlement. Performed with piss, vinegar and some poignancy by a fractious quartet of bright young things… Layton’s crowdpleasing [film] is tricked out to the max with lithe structural fillips, flashes of cinematic quotation and formal sleight of hand that gradually reveals a pointed thematic purpose.” — Guy Lodge, Variety