BootLeg Betty

Movie “Life Of Crime” Too Close To “Ruthless People”

Daily Post
MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Life of Crime’ would have worked better in the 80’s
By Michael Clark As of Wednesday, August 27, 2014

kidnappedbykmart

LIFE OF CRIME (R)

#2.5 out of 4 stars

#Saddled with a forgettable, generic title, “Life of Crime” 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 ’86, Diane Keaton was slated to play lead character Mickey in an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel “The Switch.” 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 “Ruthless People” 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 Leonard’s early ’70s setting, adapter/director Daniel Schechter nails the gaudy dress and loud décor of the era but that’s about it. It wants to be “The Ice Storm” or “Fargo” but feels more like an extended, mostly unfunny episode of “That ’70s Show.”

#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 “Fargo,” 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 don’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 — speaking through Melanie — ignores them. As with Bette Midler’s character in “Ruthless,” Mickey is more than a bit bummed and saddened that her husband — despite their differences and worth far more than what is being asked for her hide — doesn’t think she’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 character’s plights. What they need is a little of the spastic paranoia of Judge Reinhold from “Ruthless” or maybe even a touch of the sadistic calculation of the “Fargo” guys; they’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 “skip it” status to “wait for the video,” which will likely be sometime before the first fall frost.

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