Sunday, August 31, 2014

Life of Crime: Movie Review


Atmosphere full of life, story was not.
Based on the Elmore Leonard novel, Life of Crime is set in 1978 and follows earlier versions of some characters who have previously graced the big screen. A sort of prequel to Jackie Brown, the two memorable characters, Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, are instantly recreated. I certainly wouldn’t want to follow in the cinematic footsteps of Samuel L. Jackson and Robert DeNiro, but Mos Def and John Hawkes did so admirably. 2013

Directed by: Daniel Schechter

Screenplay by: Daniel Schuchter
Based on "The Switch" by Elmore Leonard

Starring: John Hawkes, Mos Def, Tim Robbins and Jennifer Aniston

After clearly identifying that these are the same characters that have the same style of speech they’ve always had, the film took its time establishing that this is a crime comedy taking place in the late 70s. Atmosphere it had. Every tiny detail from hair parts, to curtain colors, to checkered table cloths, to record players. Every single scene had establishing music and color filters (lots of yellows and browns) and actors who did their best to pretend that they live in the 1970s. They just forgot that we need a story, or more specifically, a reason to follow the story. The characters were living in their own world, the audience is watching from their own world, and never the twain shall meet.

The only character I had any interest in following was Jennifer Aniston’s Mickey Dawson. She’s a housewife who knows how little interest her husband has in her. The sympathy element was there, but with a glint of defiance because she’s going to figure out how to position herself for the best first. But before she could do anything, the criminals have kidnapped her in her own house and holding her for ransom.

Images courtesy of VVS Films.
The comedy is really only present in the obstacles in the plot. First they have to track down the husband and then they have to come up with a new plan when he has no interest in paying for her release. It is funny in and of itself, but actual jokes are much harder to find as the characters play it all rather seriously. So instead of crime comedy, we have a 1970s crime story. That’s not a hook, and again, they forgot to give us a reason to care.

Life of Crime got more interesting as it went along, particularly the “victims” and other side characters, but it all just seemed too little, too late. The criminals were criminals, but they didn’t have any driving force to make them more interesting. Which is exactly what the movie was missing. It had atmosphere, it had story, but they weren’t connected with intrigue, just criminals.

Similar Titles:

Jackie Brown (1997) - Slick characters and slick dealings in one perfectly executed film.