TMN Movie Review: "Life of Crime"

TMN Movie Review: "Life of Crime"

By Nick Leyland September 09, 2014 04:39PM EDT
60% Review Score: 6 / 10
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Life of Crime

Rating: R
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: August 29, 2014
Directed by: Daniel Schechter
Genre: Comedy / Crime

In “Life of Crime,” John Hawkes and Mos Def, credited as Yasiin Bey, play criminals Louis and Ordell respectively. They’re bad guys, but they’re rather funny and bumbling, which makes them likable for the audience despite their dubious intentions. These two criminals decide that they’re going to kidnap the spoiled wife of a corrupt businessman and demand a ransom. The businessman has a stash of money in the Bahamas that the thieves want to get their hands on. After they kidnap the man’s wife, Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), and demand a $1 million ransom, Louis and Ordell find out that the woman’s husband, Frank (Tim Robbins) doesn’t really care if his wife is returned to him or not. He’s perfectly happy with his girlfriend Melanie (Isla Fisher) at his Caribbean hideaway. While the kidnappers attempt to figure out how to get Frank to pay the ransom money, they force Mickey to stay with their friend Junior (Mark Boone), a Nazi gun collector.

The brilliance of “Life of Crime” is due at least in part to novelist Elmore Leonard. The film is based on his book, “The Switch.” Despite the well-known reputation of the author for producing books that make fantastic films, such as Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” and the Steven Soderbergh-helmed “Out of Sight,” his name is not present until the end credits; the late Leonard receives an executive producer credit on “Life of Crime.” The film pulls its comedic crime chops from the book but leaves the majority of the execution to the eclectic cast of actors. Director Daniel Schechter pulls double duty as screenplay writer, helping Leonard’s book make the transition from novel to film.

The stellar cast has a lot to do with the audience’s enjoyment of the film. Each actor brings a bit of fun and just enough over the top characterization to make the role funny without being ridiculous. The criminals in this film are not the smartest characters, but they are played extremely well and in a way that makes them funny rather than threatening. The characters of Louis and Ordell appeared in “Jackie Brown” played by different actors. In that film these characters were very flat and just generally bad guys. In this film, they’re played a bit differently. Mos Def and John Hawkes play Louis and Ordell with determination, heart and enough darkness that it’s impossible for the audience to forget that at heart they are the bad guys of the piece. Jennifer Aniston as Mickey is so funny it’s inspired. Mickey is clueless about her husband’s less savory personality quirks. She also has no idea what to do when she’s inexpertly kidnapped as a way to get to money she didn’t even know existed. The kidnapping plot has a lot of obvious holes from the beginning. The audience spends the first two acts of the film sitting on the edges of their seats just waiting to see which character falls into one of the holes or bungles up a part of the plan inadvertently. It makes for an entertaining ride and helps to create characters that are likable where they may otherwise be inaccessible to audiences.

Despite having a comedic script, the action doesn’t fall into the realm of slap-stick. It maintains a good pace throughout the slightly more than 90 minutes of running time, proceeding with a decent amount of urgency. The pace of the film could arguably be kept at a faster pace. However, it’s not absolutely necessary for the storyline. The film manages to keep the audience’s attention from start to finish without overloading viewers with too much information too quickly.

To make sure that the audience understands that “Life of Crime” is a period piece, the filmmakers pull out all of the expected stops. The outrageous hairstyles and requisite clothing are all present. A Nixon Halloween mask is even used during the kidnapping of Mickey. As the only overbearing aspect of the film, the stereotypical 1970s aspects feel a bit forced in some ways and in some cases does more to detract from the film than lend authenticity.

At its core, “Life of Crime” is a caper film. The ensemble cast delivers outstanding performances that help flesh out the characters. The obvious plot holes are clearly a storyline device on behalf of the filmmakers and do more to add to the film than to detract from it. “Life of Crime” is not a cerebral movie, but it does make for a good time for audiences. The film is definitely a must-see, if only to watch Aniston give an incredibly strong performance as a woman scorned.



Tags: Life of Crime, Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, Tim Robbins
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