American Animals Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews this drama that tells the true story of four young men who attempt one of the most outlandish and bold heists in recent history that is still listed on the F.B.I.’s all-time most significant art theft cases.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: Lions Gate – 2018
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 116 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson, Blake Jenner, Ann Dowd, Udo Keir
Written & Directed by: Bart Layton
Music by: Anne Nikitin
Region Code: A

Release Date: August 28, 2018

“Nobody Wants to be Ordinary”

My Take:

American Animals is the unbelievable but entirely true story of four young men who attempt one of the most audacious art heists in U.S. history. Determined to escape their predictable suburban lives, Spencer and Warren decide to do something extraordinary: steal some of the world’s most valuable books from a college library. Enlisting two other friends, Spencer and Warren meticulously plot the theft — but their caper takes on a wild life of its own.

Written/Directed by Bart Layton American Animals is based on the true story of a group of college aged friends who, for varying reasons, decide to commit a daring daylight robbery of rare books from a local college in Kentucky. This is a thoroughly compelling drama that is part caper, part documentary and part thriller. I loved how the narrative unfolds, presenting the four primary characters, through both their acting and real-life counterparts. It examines these young men, allowing us to see the escalation of their desire to achieve something meaningful without working for it and, how the impact of their choices unravels their relationships and ultimately their lives.

The story is told primarily through the perspectives of Spencer and Warren with the script masterfully interweaving the subtle changes of one recollection to the other while intermittently injecting the input from the real-life people. There is a light air of levity but, the film never downplays the seriousness of the events or its impact on everyone involved. As I watched I found myself transfixed waiting to see how things would turnout despite knowing up front that they get caught. I loved hearing from the real players and their outlook now, years later. The performances across the board were excellent lending an air of authenticity and emotion to the proceedings.

American Animals is an intelligently crafted and resonating docudrama that grabbed hold early on and didn’t let go until the credits rolled. It’s among my favorite films of this year.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide: 

The rating is for language throughout, some drug use and brief crude/sexual material.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 84
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones: 
  • Compression: 

American Animals comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lions Gate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

This is a pleasing video presentation that boasts plenty of high level detail, enriching contrast, natural colors and dimensionality. Blacks are punchy and stand out when onscreen with mixed content. Visual perspective in low lighting and darkened areas is estimable. The combination gives dark scenes appreciable depth. Images are pleasing and perfectly suited for the source material while exhibiting no signs of video related artifacts.

The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack presents the film’s source elements with aplomb. The quality of the dialog is unwavering as vocal reproduction is clear and tonally balanced. Dynamic range is very good which lends subtle distinction to low level sounds and gravity to broader ones. A large portion of the film has little need for this as dialogue, atmospheric ambience and musical enhancement is readily conveyed by the front channels. There are several sequences that enlist the rear channels to create a bit of audible immersion. Overall this soundtrack provides a gratifying listening experience that complimented the video presentation quite nicely.

Bonus Features:

  • Deleted Scene
  • Featurettes
  • Still Gallery
  • Director and Cast Commentary

Final Thoughts:

Written/Directed by Bart Layton American Animals is an entertaining, well-executed and interesting docudrama that I found compelling and fun to watch. It comes to Blu-ray from Lions Gate Home Entertainment featuring solid technical merits mated with a fair supplemental package. American Animals isn’t upper echelon cinema but, I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to genre fans.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems