Life of Crime
Facts and Figures
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Friday 29th August 2014
Box Office USA: $0.3M
Distributed by: Roadside Atrractions
Production compaines: Abbolita Productions, Gotham Group, Starstream Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 25
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Life of Crime Movie Review
Although the plot itself is nothing special, this kidnapping comedy keeps the audience entertained by filling every scene with outrageous characters and twisty interaction. Based on an Elmore Leonard book, this free-wheeling movie is such a tangle of colourful people and riotous 1980s hairstyles that it can't help but be enjoyable. Especially once we realise that the story isn't the most important thing.
It's set in 1984 Detroit, where trophy wife Mickey (Jennifer Aniston) has finally had it with her chilly husband Frank (Tim Robbins). As she's thinking about taking their son (Charlie Tahan) and leaving, he's holed up in the Bahamas with his mistress Melanie (Isla Fisher) while preparing to serve Mickey with divorce papers. Just then, low-life criminals Louis and Ordell (John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def), kidnap Mickey and demand a $1 million ransom. Of course, Frank thinks his problem is solved until he realises that they also know about his dodgy business dealings. And things are further complicated by Louis and Ordell's Nazi-loving sidekick (Mark Boone Junior) and an amorous dork (Will Forte) who's in love with Mickey.
As the chaos escalates, writer-director Daniel Schechter keeps the focus tightly on the offbeat characters rather than the gyrations of the narrative. This makes it easy to identify with everyone on-screen, particularly Aniston and Hawkes, who have the most complex roles. They're the only people who have either emotional shadings or a story arc to travel, so watching them become increasingly aware of the opportunities around them is a lot of fun. Everyone else is here to get laughs, and it's amusing to see each of them reveal things about themselves that add to the mayhem, from Fisher's surprisingly savvy bombshell to Bey's womanising prowess. And of course each character approaches the various moral dilemmas from a distinct angle.
Oddly, the morality involved is never remotely resonant: as an audience, we just sit back and enjoy the show without worrying about petty things like right or wrong. The one level of meaning comes in the way Frank's financial corruption seems almost quaint by today's standards. But Schechter never bothers to dig too deeply beneath the surface. Why should he when the surface is this colourful? An up-for-it cast, a convoluted story, riotously wacky sets and costumes, terrific music, and a nonstop display of absurdly incorrect attitudes. And even if his slow-burn approach sometimes makes the narrative feel a bit dull, the tangled web of intrigue between the characters is more than enough to keep us laughing.