,It would have been so easy to make a comic crime caper based on this true story. Four students at a small, private university in Kentucky are bored and decide to steal books from the the library's rare book collection, including a first edition of Audubon's The Birds of America. None has any experience in crime. Planning the heist includes watching Hollywood movies.
But writer and director Bart Layton does much more. He dramatizes the robbery using actors in their twenties and inserts clips from interviews with the actual criminals, who are in their late thirties at the time of filming. Their reflections on their younger selves are sobering.
There's plenty of time to laugh at the cluelessness of the would-be crooks, especially since no one gets killed or seriously injured, and the books are returned intact. But there is lasting damage to their families, the community, and to four men who spend years of their young lives in prison. It's worth watching as an unusually truthful true-crime film.