Directed by: Daniel Schechter
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey), Tim Robbins, Will Forte, Isla Fisher, Mark Boone Junior.
This film is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “The Switch”. If you recognize the late author’s name you know the type of story you’re about to see. It’s almost a genre in itself. His writing speaks of a world occupied by petty criminals, shady businessmen, faithless husbands, femme fatale plotters, cops, hookers, and pimps, in other words the under belly of straight society. His snappy narrative voice, and clever characterizations have never failed to captivate the readers who have flocked to his novels and the film versions of them (Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Be Cool, 52 Pick-Up, The Big Bounce). “Life Of Crime” is no different, it’s the same world, even the same characters.
However, take note, this one’s a prequel to “Jackie Brown”(Leonard’s “Rum Punch”), the classic Quinton Tarantino film. This is our introduction to ex-cons and petty crooks Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara. Here, director Daniel Schechter uses Mos Def & John Hawkes as the younger versions of Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro. It turns out to be great casting, for that matter, most all the casting in this film is terrific.
Here’s the storyline:
Petty crooks Ordell and Louis have dreamed up their next “get rich quick” scheme, they’re going to Kidnap Mickey (Aniston) the terminally bored socialite wife of rich Detroit businessman Frank Taylor (Robbins). But the duo gets more than they bargained for when it becomes obvious that they didn’t bother to research their target. Frank, it would seem, has been making business trips to be with his mistress and wife to be, Melanie (Fisher, played by Bridget Fonda in “Jackie Brown”) and has quietly filed for divorce. So when he’s confronted by the threat of Mickey’s death, the thought of eliminating alimony and not loosing half his assets by not parting with the ransom money is a no-brainer.
The fun here is in watching it all unfold along with the characters. The fun here is listening to the peppered and sometime brilliant dialogue. The fun here is in the constant surprises delivered in an unusually light and engaging manner. The fun here is in watching a terrific cast create great characters.
My hat’s off to Schechter, his direction does manage to conjure up the spirit of Leonard’s work, not an easy feat. John Hawkes carries off a lead role with a certain charm that’s been missing in films lately, Mos Def is wonderful as always, Isla Fisher lives up to the promise she showed as the nympho in “Wedding Crashers,” and even Mark Boone Junior as the racist Nazi is superb.
The only problem is Aniston. She’s a cardboard cut-out without a hair out of place even after being kidnapped and almost raped. Ridiculous. Boredom is one thing, comatose is another. Yet the film works anyway, so who cares?
My take, good film, if you’re an Elmore Leonard fan or you want to see something that’s not a spectacular big budget shoot-‘em-up, this ones for you.