VOD film review: Identity Thief
Ivan Radford | On 18, Jul 2013
Director: Seth Gordon
Cast: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Amanda Peet, John Cho, Genesis Rodriguez
Watch Identity Thief online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Identity theft is no laughing matter. Credit must go to Seth Gordon, then, for making a film that treats it as such. Other films might have trivialised this potentially life-ruining crime, filling their runtimes with laughs aplenty, but not Identity Thief. It has almost no jokes whatsoever. Unafraid to treat the subject seriously, it delivers almost two hours of resolutely unfunny cinema.
It’s almost refreshing in an age of identikit comedies to see a film so fastidiously serious. Sandy Patterson’s (Bateman) life is great: married with a kid, a job, a house and a car, he’s all set for promotion – until he starts buying jet skis and splashing out on facials in another state.
That is, Diana (McCarthy) does. Pretending to be Sandy and using his card, she takes advantage of the fact that he has a a gender-neutral name. The wonderfully deadpan Jason Bateman maintains a straight face throughout the horrifying events, which unfold with a documentary-like realism: car chases, punch-ups and heists all ensue, as they always do in everyday life. An assassin played by Genesis Rodriguez could have walked straight out of BBC’s Crimewatch onto the big screen.
These plot details may sound like a farce, but once you’ve seen Identity Thief, there’s no way it could be mistaken for an outrageous screwball comedy. Instead, John Cho and Amanda Peet’s believable boss and wife look increasingly concerned as things escalate to severe levels of disaster – at one point someone gets hit by a car, a sequence that leaves you wondering how on earth anyone could have let things get this far.
At the centre of it all, Melissa McCarthy oozes repulsiveness as the villain, bravely never delivering a single gag. Some films might have tried to turn her into a sympathetic character, or get her to crack some jokes, but not Identity Thief: Diana remains surprisingly unlikeable throughout the whole ordeal.
So, well done to Seth Gordon – and screenwriter Craig Mazin. The temptation to take this cast and make a hilarious film must have been strong, so resisting that urge is almost impressive. Instead of making the audience laugh, Identity Thief lets them sit and watch as Diana’s crimes are committed with the dull tedium of real life. It makes you wonder what a comedy about identity theft would actually look like – because this surely isn’t one.
Identity Thief is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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