Published Sep 21, 2013Having the advantage of working from an Elmore Leonard book, Daniel Schechter knocks out a tight little crime caper that, like Chinese food, is tasty while being consumed, but lacks the sustenance required to leave one feeling full. It's a good thing, then, that Life of Crime comes with a built-in audience.
Many will be drawn to this modestly entertaining comedy of errors for its association with Quentin Tarantino's retroactively beloved Jackie Brown. Fifteen years younger, Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara take centre stage for this amusing, but slight glimpse at the underbelly of the American dream. Rather than awkwardly Benjamin Buttoning Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro back into the roles they made semi-famous, Schechter enlists the talents of Yasiin Bey (better known as Be Kind Rewind's Mos Def) and John Hawkes (Winter's Bone).
Fresh out of prison, this hip odd couple hatch a scheme to kidnap the wife of a dirty Detroit property developer by the name of Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins). The essential piece of information missing from their already relatively poorly conceived plan is that Frank is planning to leave his trophy wife, Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), for his conniving mistress, Melanie (Isla Fisher, handling her duties as a vampy opportunist with customary magnetism).
Caught with their pants down in the middle of a high stakes ransom when Frank isn't too interested in paying for his estranged wife's safety, our colourful bumbling criminals, joined by a neo-Nazi gun nut (Mark Boone Junior, stretching further than you'd think from his role as Bobby on Sons of Anarchy) are forced to improvise. To add one more kook to the revolving carousel of events, Will Forte plays Marshall Taylor, a graceless coward left as a loose end after he interrupts Mickey's kidnapping, with the intent of initiating a romantic rendezvous. His presence is primarily used as yet another piece of comic relief — the story is too intent on being clever to make room for any but the broadest of emotions.
Aesthetically, Schechter has a tendency to shoot in close-up that can be spatially discombobulating, but otherwise the film looks good and plays well, entrenched in its '70s setting and maintaining a swinging pace all the way to the perfectly executed and completely underwhelming finish line.
Insubstantial, but pleasant going down, Life of Crime gives you precisely what you're looking for and nothing more. (Lions Gate)