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Life of Crime | reviews, news & interviews

Life of Crime

Life of Crime

Jennifer Aniston and John Hawkes star in this stylish Elmore Leonard adaptation

Jennifer Aniston and Will Forte in 'Life of Crime'

The task of adapting 1978 novel The Switch by Elmore Leonard - who sadly passed away last year -  is given to relatively new director Daniel Schechter who brings together a superb ensemble cast, lush seventies set design and a gritty style. He mostly rises to the occasion thanks to confident camera work and an obvious rapport with his actors.

When a scam cooked up by a couple of crooks, Louis (John Hawkes) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey aka musician Mos Def pictured below right), to kidnap the wife of a dodgy businessman goes horribly wrong a waiting game begins. Unbeknownst to anyone the husband has filed for divorce and shacked up with his mistress in Florida. Demands go unmet, unexpected relationships begin and sordid secrets are uncovered.

There’s serious sexual chemistry between kidnapper Louis and hostage Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston). Holed up together in the house of massive racist and Nazi enthusiast Richard (Mark Boone Junior) the two bond over this tense time. Aniston turns in a surprisingly versatile performance as “trophy wife” and fearful captive. Whether she is stifling pent up aggression towards her terrible husband Frank (Tim Robbins being as sleazy as his Ian in High Fidelity) or fighting against attack, she remains convincing throughout. Hawkes is typically excellent and it’s these two who really hold your attention in this crime caper.

mos def john hawkes life of crimeConfident visual swagger such as a single take following Hawkes through a grotty Detroit bar brings to mind master directors of the era in which this film is set who Schechter is clearly trying to emulate. However he doesn’t have a firm grasp on balancing the comic aspects with drama and there’s little tension in this brisk piece. Unlike Quentin Tarantino, who adapted Leonard’s Rum Punch as Jackie Brown (Life of Crime features some of the same characters) Schechter struggles to get the tone correct. What he does get right is the interplay between the characters and that’s fun enough to watch. Bey and Hawkes are fantastic together and Isla Fisher as the aforementioned mistress is credibly manipulative.

Director Schechter may not be perfectly attuned to this world of country clubs, tacky sweat-suits and phoney social engagements but he shows lots of promise given that the material he’s working with is slight. His previous film, New York set comedy Supporting Characters, which he had a hand in writing, proved he has a keen ear for dialogue and hopefully in his next feature he will be able to combine his talents.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Life of Crime

 

 

Confident visual swagger such as a single take following Hawkes through a grotty Detroit bar brings to mind master directors of the era in which this film is set

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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