Director: Daniel Schechter
Writer: Daniel Schechter, based on the novel “The Switch” by Elmore Leonard
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Mos Def (as Yasiin Bey), Isla Fisher, Will Forte, Mark Boone Junior, Tim Robbins, John Hawkes
Running Length: 99 minutes
Synopsis: Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), the wife of a corrupt real estate developer (Tim Robbins) is kidnapped by two common criminals (Yasiin Bey and John Hawkes), who intend to extort him with inside information about his crooked business and off-shore accounts. But the husband decides he’d actually rather not pay the ransom to get back his wife, setting off a sequence of double crosses and plot twists that could only come from the mind of Elmore Leonard.
Review: One can be forgiven, in the opening minutes of Life of Crime, for thinking that the projectionist had somehow played a reel of American Hustle by mistake. And indeed, the film does bear some resemblance to American Hustle, since both a crime capers set in the 70s. Life of Crime is the more low-key movie, and though the plot is sporadically entertaining, the film does not leave much of an impression by the time the credits roll.
There have been a good number of Elmore Leonard adaptations over the years, and this one sits in the middle of the pack. Having not read the source novel, I am unsure how faithful the adaptation is, but suffice to say that the plot and its twists would not be very surprising for anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of caper movies. Having said that, there are a good number of scenes which are set up quite well and the characters’ interactions are rather interesting to observe. Dialogue is also classic Elmore Leonard, which is to be expected since he was quite involved in the project prior to his death last year.
Jenifer Aniston is most known for her comedic roles, but has proven she has what it takes to be a thespian in some smaller movies. She is actually very good here, much better than I had expected, and easily becomes the emotional centre of the film. She is quite capably supported by the rest of the ensemble cast, and I actually enjoyed this ensemble more than the American Hustle posse of characters. However, the cast is less memorable than prior Leonard adaptations (a good handful come to mind – Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty), and although it provides light entertainment, the slightly meandering plot and relatively low energy level of the film did leave me feeling a bit underwhelmed at the end.
Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)