Life of Crime (Lionsgate Roadside Attractions)
Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence.
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Mark Boone Jr., Will Forte, Charlie Tahan, Seana Kofoed, Chyna Layne, Clea Lewis, Jenna Nye, Alex Ladove, Leonard Robinson, R. Marcus Taylor.
Written by Daniel Schechter, based on the novel “The Switch” by Elmore Leonard.
Directed by Daniel Schechter.
Crime never pays, but crime movies sometimes do – especially the unforgettable ones. In between there are a lot of very forgettable ones. I could list them for you – but I forgot their titles (snark). Life of Crime is one of those films that has everything going for it: A beautiful, talented lead actress, good source material and an excellent cast. Will anyone remember it when post-season awards are handed out?
Jennifer Aniston plays Mickey, the “trophy wife” of a wealthy, sleazy Detroit area real estate developer named Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins). Louis (John Hawkes) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey, AKA Mos Def, AKA Dante Terrell Smith), two small-time hustlers plot to kidnap Mickey for ransom and hold her hostage at the home of Neo-Nazi named Richard (Mark Boone, Jr.). The kidnapping goes fine, except for Marshall (Will Forte), who is trying to have an affair with Mickey – and shows up during the kidnapping at the Dawson’s plush suburban mansion. Marshall is knocked unconscious and locked in a closet as Louis and Ordell carry Mickey away.
Meanwhile, Frank is shacked up with his lover Melanie (Isla Fisher) in the Caribbean, having already sent out divorce papers to Mickey. When Louis and Ordell call him for the ransom, Frank (influenced by Melanie) refuses to pay – leaving the kidnappers with tough decisions. Mickey finds no comfort that her potential lover Marshall has not called police for fear of being caught in an affair, and the fact that her husband won’t pay the ransom. She also forms a bond with Louis.
In the end, all the real “bad guys” get what’s coming to them, as Mickey reevaluates her life and a possible relationship with Louis.
As mentioned, Life of Crime has all the ingredients for a top-notch dark comedy. It’s based on the Elmore Leonard novel “The Switch,” the plot of which bears great resemblance to the 1986 film Ruthless People. Movies based on other Leonard novels are usually pretty clever and have sharp wit to go along with all that noir crime (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, Be Cool). It also has the likeable Aniston and Forte, not to mention Academy Award-caliber talent in Hawkes and Robbins – but with all these elements, Life of Crime is a very forgettable movie. Why?
The biggest problem is pacing. The story moves along slow and never builds to anything closely resembling tension. You’d think in a kidnapping, the kidnappers might be a little more nervous or the victim might be truly scared for her life. Frank gets a little quirky, but not to the point of offering any reason for concern. The other problem is the screenplay, which is mostly void of humor or irony.
Don’t get me wrong. Life of Crime isn’t a terrible movie. It just missed all the right notes that would have made it more memorable.