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American Animals

MoviePass Ventures // Directed by Bart Layton // Starring Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Udo Kier, Ann Dowd

You should watch AMERICAN ANIMALS (2018)

Barry Keoghan just won a BAFTA for best-supporting actor for his incredible performance in The Banshees of Inisherin, which if you haven’t should, now is a good time to recommend some of his other movies. While Killing of a Sacred Deer and Dunkirk both feature Keoghan giving great performances, You Should Watch American Animals.

American Animals is a unique film in its style, as it blends a heist film with documentary-style talking head interviews. Director Bart Layton is telling a real story but chooses to use reenactments with known actors. This choice makes it easy to forget that it is technically a documentary until the moment the audience sees the real people, rather than the tremendous cast portraying them. Keoghan plays Spencer Reinhard, who becomes fixated on a collection of books kept secure in Transylvania University’s special section. When he tells his friend Warren Lipka, played by Evan Peters, the two formulate a plot to steal the books. Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson fill out the cast and the four dive into a series of events that’ll change their lives forever.

The style of the film and its compelling premise should be enough to get you to hit the “watch now” button, but if not, the two lead actors should push you over the edge. Keoghan had burst into the cinephile’s consciousness after working with Colin Farrell (another award deserving Banshees performance) in Yorgos Lanthimos’s Killing of a Sacred Deer. He followed that up with an impressive supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. American Animals debuted at Sundance and then SXSW in 2018, and he’d pretty much proven himself to be a talent worth following. 

While Keoghan could have pushed American Animals popularity after his 2017 performances, it was Evan Peters that drew a lot of attention. Becoming a recognizable face pretty much after 2011’s American Horror Story dropped, it was clear early in that TV series he was a shining star. His performance as Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future’s Past and Apocalypse, in which his scene is the only reason to bother watching that film, made him a quick favorite for moviegoers. Peters has an innate charm and ease that he brings to roles that initially make audiences like him. However, he also brings a mysteriousness to many of his performances, which makes the audience second guess his character and doubt their impulses, allowing him to build tension and fear. His talent is undeniable and effective in this film. 

American Animals is one of those movies that make fans upset that others haven’t seen it. Sometimes you recommend a movie, and there is a worry that the person will not get it and will have the opposite reaction than you did. Those worries are set aside with this one, as American Animals is far too compelling a story and full of talent and style for anyone to not walk away satisfied. Though only time will tell if that sentence holds true, I confidently recommend you check out this fun heist film. 

American Animals is available to stream on Peacock and Prime Video in the US and on VOD to rent or buy on many services in the UK.

- Jon Berk, 25th February 2023

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