Sunday, June 24, 2018

American Animals (2018)

I’ve always known I’d never make a good bank robber.  I’d probably be the one to mess it up and get everyone caught.  Even if we got away with it, what would I do with all that money?  It would be hard to spend my share of it without attracting attention.  It would be impossible to explain having a sudden influx of cash when my biweekly paycheck is in the low three figures.  (Even at my best, I was still making less than $500 every week.)

Warren Lipka has no such qualms.  When Spencer Reinhard mentions some rare (read: expensive) books that are housed at Transylvania University, Warren gets it in his head to steal them.  Spencer is reluctant, but is talked in to joining.  The two plan to rob the library, and when I say plan, I mean watch some old movies they got at Blockbuster.  (This takes place in 2004.)

They eventually have to bring in two others, who each offer some help.  It’s not going to be enough.  First, between the four of them, only Warren is really all that serious about it.  The others are looking for an easy out.  Granted, any of them could have just walked away.  It would have been much easier if there were some insurmountable problem forcing an end to it.  Second, between the four of them, none of them have any of the necessary skills.  It’s only a matter of time before they get caught.

My major issue with movies like this is that things tend to go downhill for the major characters.  That’s not as evident here.  Yes, they dig themselves into a hole, but they can get out of it at any time.  It isn’t until the final act of the movie that any books have been stolen.  At no point does anyone seem to realize how ludicrous the whole thing is.

This brings me to another point.  I’m not sure where the movie is going.  I think most people who have pondered stealing stuff realize that they’d never get away with it.  These guys had no reason to steal.  They didn’t need the money for an operation or to buy food.  They weren’t necessarily wealthy, but they weren’t hurting.  What made them think that they could do it?  It seems like the movie is more of a cautionary tale:  This is probably the way your robbery will go, so don’t try it.

Just last week, I saw Gotti, another MoviePass Ventures film.  I have to say that this is better, but that’s not saying much.  Here, the pacing is at least decent.  There’s nothing that feels rushed or unnecessary.  The movie is part interview and part reenactment, which gives it a nice flow.  It’s easy to identify with the four main characters; we’d all probably feel anxiety going through with the act.  I can’t say that I wouldn’t vomit all over the getaway car, myself.

This isn’t to say the movie is without its flaws.  The movie brings up the issue of questionable memory.  Warren and Spencer recall details differently.  (Was a guy really wearing a blue scarf?)  Warren also has to go to the Netherlands to find a fence.  I’d imagine that it would be easier to find one locally.  I also found myself wondering how he got the travel documents in order that quickly.  Assuming he already had a passport, it would be possible to get a visa pretty quickly, although none of this is ever mentioned.  (The real Warren points out that you’ll just have to take his word for it.)

The movie would probably appeal to those who like those true-crime documentaries.  It seems to have a similar format.  I’m just not sure that it’s the best way to spend $12.  The movie wasn’t quite what I expected.  (I don’t recall seeing anything about the interviews.)  If not for the fact that I actually have a MoviePass account, I probably would not have seen this in the theaters.  I’m inclined to recommend waiting for this to come out on DVD or through streaming if you want to see it. 

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