Life of Crime
dir-scr Daniel Schechter
prd Ashok Amritraj, Elizabeth Destro, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Jordan Kessler, Michael Siegel, Lee Stollman
with Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, Mark Boone Junior, Will Forte, Charlie Tahan, Alex Ladove, Jenna Nye, Clea Lewis, Leonard Robinson
release US 29.Aug.14, UK 5.Sep.14
13/US 1h34
Life of Crime
Some kidnapping: Hawkes and Aniston

bey robbins fisher
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Life of Crime Based on Elmore Leonard's novel The Switch, this dryly anarchic kidnapping comedy holds the interest mainly because of the likeable cast. The plot isn't particularly original, but there are so many twists and turns that it keeps the audience guessing. And once we realise that it's not about the plot at all, it becomes rather good fun.

In 1984 Detroit, trophy wife Mickey (Aniston) has had it with her dismissive husband Frank (Robbins) and begins thinking of leaving with their son (Tahan). But Frank's current business trip to the Bahamas is actually a getaway with his mistress Melanie (Fisher) while he serves Mickey with divorce papers. This is further complicated when Louis and Ordell (Hawkes and Bey) kidnap Mickey and demand $1 million in ransom, blackmailing Frank about his dodgy finances. Even more wrinkles are supplied by Louis and Ordell's hot-tempered sidekick Richard (Boone) and Mickey's amorous suitor Marshall (Forte).

Schechter lets the events unfold at a relaxed pace that emphasises character interaction rather than the action. This low-key approach sometimes feels dull, but the chaotic entanglement between the actors demands deeper engagement. At the centre, Aniston nicely balances the comedy and drama, revealing Mickey's feistiness along with her emotional centre. Hawkes gets the other strong role as a man who's heart isn't really into being a criminal, while Bey is sexy and sometimes scary as a guy with fewer moral inhibitions.

Wobbly morality infuses the film, from Robbins' hapless womaniser to Fisher's more savvy bombshell. In Elmore Leonard territory, no one is quite who they seem to be, and nothing goes remotely to plan. So the narrative spirals wildly out of control, continually sending the characters in new directions, most of which are darkly hilarious. Other elements (such as Richard's Nazi obsession) cut close to the bone of a society that thinks guns are the solution to any problem.

Meanwhile, the 1980s setting offers a riot of wacky hairdos, costumes and sets, plus some riotously incorrect attitudes. And this kind of financial corruption is probably considered quaint (and only vaguely illegal) today. But then the themes are only barely developed; this is instead an entertaining romp about convenient marriages and unlikely partnerships. And Schechter keeps the comedy carefully focussed all the way through, refusing to be distracted by the plot.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 22.Jul.14

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