MOVIE REVIEW: â€˜Life of Crimeâ€™ would have worked better in the 80â€™s
By Michael Clark As of Wednesday, August 27, 2014
LIFE OF CRIME (R)
#2.5 out of 4 stars
#Saddled with a forgettable, generic title, â€œLife of Crimeâ€ is a film that might have worked better had it come out when originally intended (1986) and contained anywhere near the level of stinging and caustic wit of its source material.
#Back in â€™86, Diane Keaton was slated to play lead character Mickey in an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel â€œThe Switch.â€ The plot was pretty simple: the unhappily married wife of a wealthy developer is kidnapped and held for ransom, but because the husband is also unhappy, he refuses to pay. It was so close in tone and structure to â€œRuthless Peopleâ€ that it was permanently shelved and probably should have remained there.
#In yet another attempt to jump-start her waning big-screen career, Jennifer Aniston stars as Mickey opposite Tim Robbins who plays her blowhard, cheating husband Frank. Staying faithful to Leonardâ€™s early â€™70s setting, adapter/director Daniel Schechter nails the gaudy dress and loud dÃ©cor of the era but thatâ€™s about it. It wants to be â€œThe Ice Stormâ€ or â€œFargoâ€ but feels more like an extended, mostly unfunny episode of â€œThat â€™70s Show.â€
#After a too-long preamble, Mickey is kidnapped by recently released felons and former prison bunkmates Louis (John Hawkes) and Ordell (Mos Def). While not nearly as violent as the one that went down in â€œFargo,â€ the nabbing is as equally fumbling and chaotic. Not exactly inept and far from vicious, Louis and Ordell are just lazy, unimaginative and disorganized. On the way out they must think fast after receiving a surprise visit from Marshall (Will Forte), a friend of the family who has his eyes on Mickey.
#Shortly thereafter Mickey is plopped down in the home of third accomplice Richard (Mark Boone Junior), a neo-Nazi whose home is adorned with Third Reich memorabilia. Looking like Grizzly Adams on acid, Richard is also a Peeping Tom but gets more than he bargained for after Mickey discovers his hiding place.
#What Mickey and her captors donâ€™t know is that before Frank headed off to an Island resort with his mistress Melanie (Isla Fisher), he filed divorce papers so the trio of would-be extortionists is actually doing him a favor. The more they plead for the $1 million ransom, the more Frank â€” speaking through Melanie â€” ignores them. As with Bette Midlerâ€™s character in â€œRuthless,â€ Mickey is more than a bit bummed and saddened that her husband â€” despite their differences and worth far more than what is being asked for her hide â€” doesnâ€™t think sheâ€™s worth it and in turn something resembling Stockholm Syndrome kicks in.
#Robbins is no Danny DeVito, Aniston is certainly no Midler and while otherwise good at what they do, Hawkes and Def seem indifferent to parts and their characterâ€™s plights. What they need is a little of the spastic paranoia of Judge Reinhold from â€œRuthlessâ€ or maybe even a touch of the sadistic calculation of the â€œFargoâ€ guys; theyâ€™re just not very interesting or dangerous criminals.
#The only things the movie has going in its favor are a short running time (94 minutes) and a beyond-surprising plot twist taking place in the final scene. In mere seconds the film goes from â€œskip itâ€ status to â€œwait for the video,â€ which will likely be sometime before the first fall frost.