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With: Jennifer Aniston, Mos Def (as Yasiin Bey), John Hawkes, Isla Fisher, Will Forte, Mark Boone Junior, Tim Robbins, Clea Lewis, Charlie Tahan, Kevin Corrigan
Written by: Daniel Schechter, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard
Directed by: Daniel Schechter
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content and violence
Running Time: 98
Date: 08/29/2014

Life of Crime (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Crime' Waves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Life of Crime is the newest movie adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, and like some of the best ones, it's twisty, smart, funny, and filled with colorful characters.

Its main drawback is its tenuous connection with Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997).

Jackie Brown was based on Leonard's 1992 novel Rum Punch, while Life of Crime is based on a previous novel, The Switch, published in 1978.

Rum Punch was a semi-sequel to The Switch, carrying over some of the same characters, which means that Life of Crime is a semi-prequel to Jackie Brown.

In reality, the two movies are quite different, and each adaptation moves in a different direction from its source.

But nevertheless, here is Ordell Robbie, previously played by Samuel L. Jackson before and currently by Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def).

Louis Gara was previously played by Robert De Niro and is now played by John Hawkes. And Melanie was previously played by Bridget Fonda and is now played by Isla Fisher.

In this story, Louis and Ordell develop a plan to kidnap Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), the aging trophy wife of a wealthy property magnate, Frank (Tim Robbins).

Unfortunately, Frank doesn't care about his wife; he wants to divorce her and marry his new, younger lover, Melanie.

Will Forte plays an ineffectual suitor of Mickey's, and Mark Boone Junior plays a creepy collector of Nazi propaganda and a creator of peepholes, through which he watches Mickey.

Admittedly, Life of Crime does not have a great deal of action. Even the kidnapping scene is fairly low-key. Mickey cuts her foot on a dropped jar, and that's about it.

Characters frequently sit around kitchen tables or living room sofas, attempting to anticipate upcoming moves.

Writer/director Daniel Schechter, whose previous film was the low budget Supporting Characters, has the foresight to set the movie in 1978, when the book was written, thereby avoiding the traps of modern technology.

Thus, the sets and costumes, as well as the highly skilled cast and the colorful dialogue serve to form a kind of low-key, yet brisk, forward-moving energy.

Yet, this means that Jackie Brown is a good deal more kinetic, as well as more emotionally involving, and the comparison may do some damage.

So it's better to think of Life of Crime as closer to one of Leonard's classic "B" movies, like The Tall T, or as a pure lightweight entertainment like Get Shorty.

Or, to put it more plainly, it's more of a little misdemeanor than a big crime, but it gets the job done.

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