Language : English | Running Time :99 Minutes | Director : Daniel Schechter
A film based on an Elmore Leaonrd novel. The first thought that comes to mind is Quentin Tarantino’s now cult classic “Jackie Brown”, a film based on “Rum Punch”. It gave us two memorable screen cons – Ordell Robbie played by an excellent Samuel L. Jackson and Louis Gara (Robert De Niro). “Life Of Crime”, based on “The Switch” brings back the characters in their Detroit years, 1978 to be exact. But this time we don’t have the great Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro but Yasiin Bey, a.k.a Mos Def and John Hawkes respectively. Tarantino’s chops are tried on by Daniel Schechter. These are major steps down but these are not what really affect the film.
The opening sequence of Life Of Crime where Ordell and Louis tag team to con a man. They knock him unconscious by hitting him using a truck. This is goofball con. And we know what to expect in the further criminal activities of these men. The big con here is to relieve Frank Dawson(Tim Robbins), a realtor off some money and the big plan is to kidnap his trophy wife Mickey(Jennifer Aniston).
On paper, this looks like a grand theory for a good caper film. With Tim Robbins proving to be genuinely unlikable and Jennifer Aniston doing the trophy wife part brilliantly, one can settle into the charade that Daniel Schechter creates. When Frank gets drunk and forces Mickey around, you are already sure about the way the characters are being shaped and The Switch, one of Leonard’s weaker works doesn’t really offer big shifts. The only character arc where we see growth is in Mickey’s. The slow transformation from the subdued wife who isn’t able to stand up to the woman who stubs the cigarette on the roving eye of a Nazi cultist, Richard(Mark Boone Jr.) and then slowly finding herself enough to share an interesting rapport with Louis is very well brought out and an interesting screen space.
Otherwise, Life Of Crime plays a small con game, content to try some goofball comedy and rely on coincidence to pull the trick off. There’s no menace or surety in Ordell and Louis is a mild one. The actors have good charisma but they don’t up the ante. It is laid-back like a Sunday picnic where they are playing hide and seek by the lake but little else. There’s some good laughs involved, especially with regard to the illicit affair angle that’s played using Will Forte’s Marshall Taylor in an otherwise pretty lukewarm setting.
There are times when we see Melanie Ralston (Isla Fisher) and Frank together that this might have some elaborate con gone wrong approach but it doesn’t really go for it. It doesn’t become cocky and neither does it go for brains. This is the kind of movie which The Coens would have amplified with their brand of comedy. Daniel Schechter tries using Mark Boone Jr. in a typical John Goodman role but there’s very little to talk about in the writing. It doesn’t offer the actors enough material to make an impact.
Life Of Crime is an assembly of good enough people that are brought down by a weak story and a very blithe con. It isn’t necessarily a bad film but it isn’t a very engaging film either. Aniston and Hawkes have enough going for them and there’s a few laughs but this doesn’t cut it. It feels underplayed and it keeps its cards closed, never showing them up.