Keswick Film Club - Reviews - American Animals

Reviews - American Animals

American Animals

Reviewed By Vaughan Ames

American Animals
American Animals
Our film last Sunday was a heist thriller... or was it a documentary... or a comedy? There was a bit of everything in 'American Animals' and it delivered on all fronts.

The introducer noted that there are 53 films with American in the title and asked us to ponder on why other nations try to make films that suit everyone, while Americans try so hard to work out who they are; well 'Animals' certainly fit that bill too. In 2004, Spencer and Warren, two students at Kentucky University, talked each other into trying to steal some valuable books from their college library, more to prove to themselves that they were 'special' - not just ordinary humans like everyone else – than for the money. From the beginning it was a shambles – they began by looking up how to carry out a heist on Google! Eventually they talk two others into helping them; why did they agree? They seemed to realise it was doomed from the start. The actual robbery went totally wrong – they couldn't bring themselves to hurt the librarian so just tied her up, they couldn't find their way out of the building so carried the books through the crowded library and finally dropped the most valuable books on the stairs. Not surprisingly, when they tried to fence the books they did manage to hold on to, they gave their real mobile number! They were all arrested and given seven years in prison.

The original touch to the film was to have the real people appear from time to time to gives their contradictory views of what happened (Spencer: "it was all Warren's idea", Warren: "Spencer came up with it all"). This also made it a kind of docudrama – which the director emphasised by stating at the beginning that it wasn't 'based' on fact, it actually happened – and the last interviews about the post-robbery events made it obvious that they had all regretted it in different ways. It also showed how easy it is to drift into things without any real desire: Spencer assumed they would hit a point where they would give up, that it was never going to really happen. The concept of 'being special' seemed to drive them on – they had been brought up to believe they were special; the American dream in practise perhaps?

That said it was a good thriller too, and with some very funny scenes. Throughout I was wondering what was going to happen next (and, yes, hoping they would get away with it! Like a Marx Brothers farce, their obvious incompetence made you take their side) and there was moments when the audience laughed out loud.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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