An American Crime

2007

Biography / Crime / Drama / Horror

6
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Rotten 38%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 74%
IMDb Rating 7.3 10 31801

Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
October 02, 2020 at 08:30 PM

Director

Cast

Evan Peters as Ricky Hobbs
James Franco as Andy
Ellen Page as Sylvia Likens
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
896.41 MB
1280*544
English 2.0
R
23.976 fps
1 hr 37 min
P/S 52 / 138
1.8 GB
1920*816
English 5.1
R
23.976 fps
1 hr 37 min
P/S 77 / 130

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Phantasm01 9 / 10

A very important film that shouldn't be ignored

Not many films make me feel sick to my stomach and not many make me feel such a profound sadness that I'm helpless to do anything but cry. An American Crime chronicles the startling and horrific events that led to the death of sixteen year old Sylvia Likens. The story we're told comes directly from the court transcripts in the case of Baniszewski vs. The State of Indiana. As the story unfolds we slowly spiral from a normal, small town world populated with youthful innocence to one of absolute and inexplicable horror.

The story of the events that led up to Likens' death is short and tragic, with many people to fault, including her own parents and sister. Her parents negligently entrusted her and her little sister's care to a woman they had only met once. This woman, Gertrude Baniszewski, was mother to a brood of children and accepted Sylvia and her sister into her home for the simple fact that she needed the money the Likens were offering. But Baniszewski wan't fit to care for the Likens' daughters and within a few months, Sylvia had become the victim of Gertrude's escalating abuse. Sylvia eventually became a prisoner in Baniszewski's basement for an excruciating 27 days, where she was abused and tortured by Baniszewski, her children and also a number of other neighborhood children. How could this have happened? How could so many people be involved in such a horrible crime? How could her own sister not have gone to the police before it was too late? After Sylvia died as a result of her beatings, Baniszewski's was found guilty of her crimes and sentenced to life in prison. Her children and the others involved were also found guilty and sentenced, each one eventually serving two years in prison. While Baniszewski's crimes are unforgivable, the thing I personally found most disturbing was how her example led to her children's and the other children's acts of cold, cruel, brutality.

The world we are introduced to in AAC is not sensational, on the contrary, it is simple, ordinary, common and comfortable. The production design and cinematography work in harmony, lulling the viewer into believing they are witness to a more innocent time and place and as the story builds the Norman Rockwell veneer slowly begins to chip away until it is displaced by a world of suffocating doom. The resulting effect is that AAC gets under our skin and disturbs us in a profound way since these crimes could have been committed in our neighborhood, by our neighbors and possibly by people we knew and trusted. Most disturbing of all is the realization these crimes could have involved us.

It would be easy to demonize Baniszewski and all the others involved in Likens death, but writer/director Tommy O'Haver chooses to humanize them instead. In doing so their horrible acts of abuse and torture linger and beg the recurring question: how could they have done this? When we see the faces of the children in court, we don't see the faces of psychopaths, we see innocent children with no explanation for their actions. Only Baniszewski herself comes across as a detached, delusional and remorseless criminal and Catherine Keener has to be applauded for somehow managing to add complexity and insight to someone guilty of such crimes. Keener's subtle performance aside, the standout in this movie is Ellen Page who breaks our heart when we watch her stripped of her innocence.

Before AAC, Page drew raves for her performances in Hard Candy and Juno. In both those films she played a precocious, smart assed hipster who had the world on the tip of her little finger. Here Page plays Likens as a sensitive, kind and considerate sixteen year old and when the world comes crashing down upon her, the suffering she endures is heartbreaking and convincingly rendered by Page. I'm sure few will agree with me, but Page's breakthrough performance isn't in Juno, it's in An American Crime.

Reviewed by alanmora 7 / 10

A harrowing and baffling account of an unimaginable crime

I have been waiting to see this film for over a year now because this is a case that has haunted me for years and I am very familiarized with the facts of the case. I finally got to see it's USA premiere on Showtime tonight. I was of course, like everyone else, blown away by Catherine Keener and Ellen Page's performance and was quite impressed with the caliber of talent in the entire cast. Everyone seemed to play off of each other very well and all seemed to handle the extremely difficult subject matter very maturely. There were just a few things that baffled me about the film:

Firstly, the soundtrack. Now I do understand that this was a 'period' piece set in the 1960's and that music from the 60's is appropriate but to me it is much more impactful to have no music at all, especially during some of the more hard to watch torture scenes. Some of the music did not seem to match what was going on on screen.

The other thing that baffled me was the 'dream sequence' toward the end that showed Sylvia actually escaping and reaching her parents and one of her torturers was helping her to escape. Yes I realize that this scene was added for more dramatic purposes and it was effective when it turned out to be an out-of-body experience for Sylvia but I really think they could have done without this scene and dealt more closely with the actual facts of this case.

Also, it seemed to me that the director was trying to portray Gertrude and Paula Baniszewski as almost sympathetic characters when in reality they were monstrous in their actions and merciless with their sadistic torment of this young woman. For example, Paula did hurt her hand while punching Sylvia and had to put it in a cast but in reality it did not end there because Paula used her cast to further beat Sylvia. Paula did not defend Sylvia against her mother and was in fact, in some ways, even more callous than her mother. An example of this would be the scalding baths that they gave Sylvia, which was not touched on in the film, but after these baths Paula rubbed salt into Sylvia's wounds.

Gertrude was much more active in the torture in reality and she showed absolutely no remorse or even recognition for her actions until many years later at her parole hearing when she was finally released. The only person who actually did show even the slightest bit of mercy towards Sylvia during her ordeal was Stephanie, a fact that is not touched on in the film.

I can certainly understand why the producers would choose to leave out certain specifics of the tortures that Sylvia endured because they do not feel that an audience would believe it however, if you are going to make a film like this I believe it is essential to let the viewers know the full extent of the torture she endured. Viewers need to know that after the 'church dinner' that is shown in the film Sylvia was forced to eat a hot dog with everything on it and consume her own vomit because Gertrude thought that she made a pig of herself at the picnic and NOT because she met a boy at the picnic as the film portrays.

Certain specifics of the Baniszewski's everyday life were also omitted. I believe these are important elements to the case. If you are going to try to portray Gertrude as some sort of desperate housewife who was stricken by poverty and caved in to her own inner fury than the viewers need to see that the Baniszewski household had no phone, no stove (just a hot plate), and that it's kitchen drawers had only 1 spoon. Also, a vital example of just what sort of person Gertrude is would be to let the viewers know that, while the children slept on dirty, urine soaked mattresses (and there were not enough of these for all of the occupants in the home) Gertrude had a complete bedroom set in her room.

Ordinarily I would not stress these facts so heavily but the producers of this film would like to lead the viewer to believe that it is based entirely on fact and they stress that with a disclaimer at the beginning of the film and while I do realize that for dramatic purposes certain things had to be added and deleted it should not dilute the fact that a young woman was murdered in a cold, calculating, maniacal manner the likes of which had never been heard of before and that there is absolutely no room for sympathy for her torturers especially Gertrude and Paula. Regardless of these facts, I personally feel that films like this are vital viewing because they touch on subject matters that people generally do not talk about. If more people talked about them perhaps a life could have been spared here. Kudos to the director for taking on this subject matter and to Keener, Page and the rest of the cast for having the courage to take on such a horrific topic.

Reviewed by larry-411 9 / 10

A non-fiction horror film, hard to watch but important

I attended the world premiere of "An American Crime" at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Among the several decidedly downbeat films I saw this past week, this one was by far the hardest to watch. But something about it is compelling, like craning your neck to see what horrors can be spotted at the scene of a car crash. You know it can't be anything pretty, yet you can't take your eyes off it. Perhaps it was knowing that the film is, in fact, based on a true story. The opening courtroom scenes and disclaimer that "actual transcripts" were used make that clear. There's something about a "true crime" drama that triggers a desire to sit through whatever terrifying images lie ahead. And the images conjured up here are bone-chilling.

In 1965, Betty Likens (Romy Rosemont) and her husband Lester (Nick Searcy) decided it was best to leave their two daughters with a neighbor while they went off with a traveling carnival. So Sylvia Likens (Ellen Page) and her sister Jennie Fae (Hayley McFarland) settled in with the Baniszewski clan. And what a clan it was. Mother Gertrude (Catherine Keener) already had five of her own in tow, and now she added two more. What happened then, well documented in the record, is now played out for us with horrifying realism.

This is Keener and Page's film, despite the large ensemble cast assembled for the story. And both actors create frighteningly devastating portrayals of characters we still can't quite believe really endured these horrors. Mommie Dearest doesn't hold a candle to Keener's Gertrude, and Page is as heartbreaking as any victim I've seen in modern cinema. Both turn in award-winning performances that left me with chills.

In addition to the numerous family members, an assortment of school chums has the opportunity to get involved in some way. Coy Hubbard (Jeremy Sumpter) is the boyfriend of one of the Baniszewski brood. Known to most from 2003's "Peter Pan," we can't help but feel that he will be the hero here. Teddy Lewis (Michael Welch), is an enigma from the start. One of our most prolific yet underrated young actors today, Welch is perfectly cast as the boy whose blood runs hot or cold depending on the prevailing winds. Other notables include The West Wing's Bradley Whitford as prosecutor Leroy K. New.

This is a period piece set in the mid-60s, and the costumes, sets, and palette of colors effectively evokes that era to a T. Much of the film's look can be attributed to the cinematography of Byron Shah, who had two films here at Sundance (his "The Go-Getter" was one of my favorite film' at this year's festival).

"An American Crime" is not for everyone. It's a horror film that isn't a work of fiction. If it was from the hand of Stephen King it would be scary and delicious. Instead it's scary and nauseating. Yet it deserves the label "important," because the subject matter is worthy of discussion. And that's because the horrors exposed in this film are still occurring today. That's the real crime.

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