Directed by: Daniel Schechter
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Mark Boone Junior, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, yasiin bey, Will Forte, John Hawkes
Low rent criminals Ordell (bey) and Louis (Hawkes) have come up with what they feel is a foolproof get rich quick scheme. After kidnapping trophy wife Mickey (Aniston), the pair presume her property tycoon husband Frank (Robbins) will pay up without hesitation. What they don't know, however, is that Frank just filed for divorce, and with the encouragement of his young mistress Melanie (Fisher), sees this as an opportunity to finally be rid of his wife.
If the names Ordell, Louis and Melanie sound familiar, you've probably seen the same characters portrayed by Samuel L Jackson, Robert De Niro and Bridget Fonda in Tarantino's Jackie Brown, as both movies are adapted from novels by the late crime writer Elmore Leonard. With the exception of some westerns (The Tall T, Hombre and two versions of 3:10 to Yuma), Leonard's works have suffered greatly in their screen adaptations. None of the movies based on his crime fiction have succeeded in translating the energy of his prose. When you read Leonard, you imagine his crackling dialogue delivered at a whipcrack His Girl Friday pace, yet of all the screen translations, only Soderbergh's Out of Sight managed to get anywhere close to capturing this.
Writer/director Daniel Schechter seems to be taking his cue from Tarantino's stab at Leonard, and Life of Crime suffers from the same pacing issues as Jackie Brown, despite a relatively economical running time. There are subplots and minor characters (Mark Boone Junior's Nazi worshipping nutjob, Will Forte's wannabe suitor of Mickey) that feel half-formed and could easily be removed. The period detail draws far too much attention to itself, and the fashion seems more reminiscent of the early 70s, rather than the 1978 setting of the story. The musical choices feel very Tarantino inspired, but they're just dropped into the film with little thought, and never feel in sync with the action on screen. The only scene that really delivers the thrill of Leonard's work is ironically one that features an absence of dialogue, a one take track through a restaurant as Louis poses as a diner in order to steal a car, courtesy of an unaware valet.
What Schecter's film does have in its favour is a host of great performances. bey, Hawkes and Fisher are far more convincing than Jackson, De Niro and Fonda were in the same roles, while Aniston gives arguably her best turn since 2002's The Good Girl.
With the same premise famously stolen for the 1986 Danny De Vito comedy Ruthless People, and reworked several times since, Life of Crime feels three decades past its sell by date.
By Eric Hillis