Life of Crime (2014)

LIFE-OF-CRIME-Poster-Artwork-for-WebsiteHere is a film that may not be a great long con but I enjoyed it nonetheless and with a stellar cast pulling their weight alongside an excellent score, you cannot deny that this film has most of the requirements for a watchable and interesting enough kidnapping story. 

Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), a wife of wealthy Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins) becomes the highlighted target for a hopeful quick money making scheme to pull in $1 million. Though unfortunately for the two kidnappers Louis and Ordell (John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey) Frank is getting some sweet action on the side from Melanie (Isla Fisher) the other woman in his life and with a Dawson divorce on the cards Louis and Ordell need to think fast to try and get that money still. 

Adapted from an Elmore Leonard story this film succeeds in mixing a suitable amount of fun tension with the main flesh of the tale. It might not be overly hilarious but the cast and writing are sharp enough to keep the movie going along nicely. In fact this crime caper is more engaging to watch unfold than the disaster writing involved in ‘American Hustle’. At least here the story is simple and effective with some neat and tidy little turns to keep the aspects of humour up and also keep the con idea’s neck above water. Every now and then nearing the latter end of the film’s running time it can feel like it is lagging slightly when they themselves don’t know what to do in the predicament of an unwanted hostage but it all feels worth it for a sly and cheeky twist just before the credits do their thing. 

A lot of the con magic here actually stems from the sense of the music built up. That honour falls to The Newton Brothers and Jordan Galland who conjure up steady beats of percussion to provide a rhythmic overtone that works well in this crime setting. Their score harks up impressions of Oceans 11 and the like with it’s smooth and stylish simplicity of drum knocks and jazzy notes. It did a lot to improve the nature and atmosphere of the story and give it a needed stamp of con movie flair. 

I may not have liked some of the slower parts where dialogue or story chunks felt boring and uninspiring for a con movie genre but there are some great moments in this film to be seen. The tension is raised to an 11 out of 10, no ‘This is Spinal Tap’ reference intended, in the Dawson house scene as Mickey’s admirer played by Will Forte comes into the home as Louis and Ordell are in the process of kidnapping her. Aside from the kooky ‘You’re Next’ masks the comedy comes to a necessary halt to bring in some hold your breath suspense as Marshall (Forte) gets nearer to where they’re hiding a scared and masked Mickey. There’s fun to be had too in Ordell journeying down to Florida to come face to face with Frank’s mistress as they try and take a change in pace to get the money they want. The confidence of a bound and taken woman is great to see and emphasised by a painful looking cigarette burn to a peeping Nazi. 

Jennifer Aniston is seeming to take on better roles as of late and here she proves she can play a lead with convincing drama. You feel for her vulnerability and Aniston sells the character of Mickey with sadness, confidence and a glimmer in her eye that she’s not overly weak as you’d think a blonde wife of a rich man could be. John Hawkes takes on the role of Stockholm syndrome guy well and gives the kidnapping duo the grounded angle while Yasiin Bey or Mos Def as you’d all know him plays it cool and swish as the one desperate to do anything to get that million dollars. Isla Fisher is fabulous as playing the sassy sultry mistress with brains and sharp thoughts to try and save herself along with Frank and then Ordell. Tim Robbins doesn’t really do much after the first twenty minutes of the movie but in that time he plays a worrying streak of possible abusive husband to perfection that helps Aniston feed off to sympathise with her more. Will Forte doesn’t really have much of a character and doesn’t do an awful lot to the story either. 

It isn’t a fantastically tense or funny con story and it only feels as watchable as it does thanks to some snappy star casting, Mos Def and Isla Fisher take a bow for the zippy side of things and Aniston for being rather good really. The film captures that 70’s vibe with accuracy and gives us interesting characters to watch to the last seconds of the plot. 

6/10

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