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Life of Crime – Movie Review

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Life of Crime – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

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Life of Crime has the elements of an Elmore Leonard story with its strange set of characters and off-kilter sense of humour. His work has previously been adapted to success before, most notably Get Shorty and Jackie Brown. Unfortunately, this film lacks the snappiness and great energy expected of Leonard. Watching the whole movie unfold, it feels like a project the Coen Brothers would have done wonders with. However, its current iteration is stale and moves at a snail’s pace through its ninety minute runtime with only a couple of worthy performances to its credit.

Life of Crime immediately tries to set itself up as the kind of comedic caper we would see in the 1970s, but even with the soundtrack and style of clothing, this is a movie that could have been set in any time period. It does not serve the story and there’s no sense of flair that one associates with that decade. Not to say the film should have been in your face about its setting, but if the script could have been set at any point in history, getting the period cars and technology seems like a waste of time on the production crew’s part. While the ensemble consists of an eccentric set of characters, nothing about them proves memorable and any attempt at development is thrown out of the window. A lot of the time, the humour never sticks and it just becomes a series of boring set-pieces for them to move around. The whole script feels like wannabe Coen Brothers, even though Elmore Leonard is a strong writer who has been doing these kinds of stories long before Blood Simple was released.

The team behind Life of Crime has managed to hire an impressive cast, but none bring much to the table or elevate the already flabby material. Jennifer Aniston does not display the necessary comedic chops or weight to portray her kidnapped housewife. John Hawkes continues his string of disappointing performances, lacking any kind of menace or sneakiness. Will Forte also appears to be lost and Mark Boone Junior is given a one-note character to work with. The only actors who bring some semblance of life and strong comic timing are Tim Robbins and Isla Fisher. Playing Aniston’s cheating husband and his mistress, the screen suddenly lights up whenever they appear on-screen. Their chemistry is great and I started to wish the movie would simply abandon Aniston’s arc and stay with those two. While Fisher’s accent is a little wonky, she is clearly having fun in the part and her interactions with Robbins provide the only funny parts in the movie.

Unfortunately, as soon as we leave their antics, Life of Crime returns to being a dull series of scenes of Aniston and Hawkes sharing no chemistry whatsoever. The humour even turns uncomfortable at one point, but not in a clever way that makes us laugh and grimace at the same time, like the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino have been known to. The final act is the most tough to sit through, as it lumbers along with no end in sight and there are a million endings. The script seems uncertain of when to cut it short and it’s actually a relief when the end credits start rolling. These are characters I never want to experience again, at least, as played by these actors and with this screenplay. Tarantino earlier adapted John Hawkes and Mos Def’s characters to the screen to much better effect in Jackie Brown, though their personalities are oddly switched in this one from how they were portrayed by Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson, respectively.

Whilst watching Life of Crime, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to see Joel and Ethan Coen adapt an Elmore Leonard novel. They would be absolutely perfect for the material and would provide a funnier and more thrilling result than this mess of a movie. There is so much potential to be found in any take on Elmore Leonard’s stories and this falls so disappointedly short. Seeing the spark between Isla Fisher and Tim Robbins in their scenes together only further reminded me of how Leonard was one of the most interesting writers of the 20th century, who presented some impressive wordsmith in writing his books. This was one of the last film projects he had a hand in and it unfortunately is not one of the high points of his legacy the way Get Shorty and 3:10 to Yuma still are.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison