Lexington, Kentucky, 2004: Spencer and Warren dream of remarkable lives beyond their middle-class suburban existence. They head off to colleges in the same town, haunted by the fear they may never be special in any way. Spencer is given a tour of his school’s incredibly valuable rare book collection and describes it all to Warren. Suddenly, it hits them—they could pull off one of the most audacious art thefts in recent history, from the university’s special collections library. Convinced they can get away with it, they recruit two other friends. Suddenly, the dance of knowing what happens if they cross the line becomes all-consuming.
“This is unabashedly virtuoso, show-off filmmaking, as cocky as the misguided young men at the film’s center, who, at least for a period, saw their lives as a Hollywood romp in itself.” – Guy Lodge, VARIETY
“American Animals requires many cuts and perspectives which are second-nature to an accomplished documentarian, yet the drama here also seems effortless and seamlessly integrated.” – Fionnuala Halligan, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL
“Both as a writer and director, Layton delivers the dramatic goods here with the skill of a pro at the top of his game while adding the rueful perspective of time’s reassessment of youthful indiscretions; this has to rate among the most accomplished and fully realized big-screen debuts of recent times.” –Todd McCarthy, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER