Life Of Crime

Elmore Leonardís best books make for good movies because they are as much about characters and behavior as they are about plot. Put together a large, talented cast, provide something approximating his humorous dialogue, and you should end up with a totally enjoyable film. Daniel Schechterís Life of Crime, an adaptation of the Leonard novel The Switch,...read more

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Reviewed by Perry Seibert
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Elmore Leonardís best books make for good movies because they are as much about characters and behavior as they are about plot. Put together a large, talented cast, provide something approximating his humorous dialogue, and you should end up with a totally enjoyable film. Daniel Schechterís Life of Crime, an adaptation of the Leonard novel The Switch, is a prime example.

John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) play, respectively, Louis Gara and Ordell Robbie, a pair of criminal friends who plot to kidnap Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), the wife of an ethically dubious businessman named Frank (Tim Robbins), and ransom her for a million dollars. The plan starts to go wrong almost immediately when the initial abduction is interrupted by the arrival of Marshall (Will Forte), who wants Mickey to have an affair with him, and things get even worse when it turns out that Frank is ready to leave his wife for Melanie (Isla Fisher), with whom he is currently enjoying a sex-filled Florida vacation.

When Frank delays in making the payment, Louis and Ordell try to figure out how to force his hand. However, Louis has grown sweet on their captive, while the duoís incredibly dumb neo-Nazi partner Richard (Mark Boone Jr.) seems more eager to kill Mickey -- he thinks sheís Jewish -- than anything else.

Schechter has done the necessary work to bring Leonard to the big screen: Heís assembled a first-rate cast and written a script that keeps the twisty plot clear and the dialogue funny. Although he never reaches the poetic verbosity of Jackie Brown (which Quentin Tarantino adapted from Leonardís Rum Punch, and which also features the characters of Louis and Ordell) or the formal daring of Steven Soderberghís take on Out of Sight, Schechter has fashioned a movie that leaves you feeling just as entertained as a book by Leonard would.

Hawkes is first among equals as Louis. He never lets us forget the characterís inherent scuzziness, even as he acts as gentlemanly as he can toward Mickey. Bey has always been a charismatic screen actor, and his take on Ordell is no exception; itís amazing how strongly he recalls Samuel L. Jacksonís performance as the same character without ever seeming beholden to it. Isla Fisher is smart and sexy as the manipulative femme fatale, and Robbins makes Frank enjoyably hissable. Aniston is fine as the kidnapped woman ready to make a change in her life, but sheís the only member of the cast who feels replaceable. Meanwhile, Mark Boone Jr. just about steals the movie as Richard, whoís the quintessential mean and stupid Leonard bad guy -- early on, Ordell describes him as, ìso dumb itís adorable.î Heís the kind of cretin you laugh at until heís suddenly a genuine threat, and Boone is perfect at both buffoonery and menace.

Schechterís previous film, the micro-budgeted romantic comedy Supporting Characters, was a subtly original and charming take on a tired genre. Life of Crime doesnít have the thematic ambition of his earlier picture, but taken together, these two movies show that heís a talented director who is adept with actors, able to shape distinctive characters, and capable of making smart and funny films.

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  • Released: 2014
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Elmore Leonardís best books make for good movies because they are as much about characters and behavior as they are about plot. Put together a large, talented cast, provide something approximating his humorous dialogue, and you should end up with a totally… (more)

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