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USA 2014
Directed by
Daniel Schechter
99 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Angie Fox
3 stars

Life Of Crime

Synopsis: It’s 1970s Detroit and inept gangsters Ordell (Yasiin Bey, formerly hip-hop star, Mos Def) and Louis (John Hawkes) hatch a plan to kidnap Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), the wife of sleazy local businessman, Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins). Their plans go awry when Frank, who is holed up in Miami with his tarty girlfriend, Melanie (Isla Fisher), has little interest paying the ransom. Things turn sour when they up the ante on Frank and one of their co-conspirators, the Nazi-loving. Richard (Mark Boone Junior) starts misbehaving.

An adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s "The Switch", Life Of Crime is not as strong as other Leonard adaptations, notably Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, the 1997 film in which Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro played Ordell and Louis. Still, it is an engaging black comedy replete with endearing bad guys, polished performances and stylish 1970s wardrobes and cars.

Jennifer Aniston is appropriately restrained as the kidnap victim who learns via her kidnappers that her husband is a two-timing thief. She brings out the humour in the role by playing Mickey with a nonchalance that is disarming and very funny. The role is a departure from the standard rom-com vehicles she commonly stars in and proves that she has a flair for unconventional comedies.

Testament to his formidable acting chops, viewers will have that niggling feeling they’ve seen Hawkes before, but may not be able to put their finger on exactly where.  He starred as the quadriplegic hero in Ben Lewin’s The Sessions and the scary cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene, markedly different characters from his gangster-with-a-good-streak here.

Strong performances come from Robbins and Fisher, as the crooked husband and his calculating moll whilst Bey's singsong voice and hip manner lends the film charm.

Lacking some of the punchiness of a Tarantino production, writer-director Daniel Schechter’s script is still tight and darkly humorous. Although the film loses pace towards with the various elements of the plot remaining too disconnected from each other to generate tension, Schechter manages to bring his film home with an unforeseeable plot twist rich in comedy.




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