Netflix UK film review: Life of Crime
Andrew Jones | On 05, Sep 2014
Director: Daniel Schechter
Cast: John Hawkes, Jennifer Aniston, yasiin bey, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher
Watch Life of Crime online in the UK: Netflix UK / Curzon Home Cinema / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
When it comes to Elmore Leonard adaptations, almost all films based on his stories are of strong to excellent quality – we can ignore Be Cool – so Life Of Crime has an uphill battle, but does a good job at being entertaining, even when it hits some less-than-interesting beats.
Set in the same universe as Jackie Brown (aka. Rum Punch), Life Of Crime features a young Ordell Robbie (bey, formerly played by Samuel L. Jackson) and Louis Gara (Hawkes, formerly Robert De Niro), as well as the brilliant story of how they meet Melanie Ralston (Fisher, formerly played by Bridget Fonda). Yet for all the happy prequel-esque nostalgia they could throw in, Life Of Crime has its eye on the prize of telling its story with pathos and humour.
When two crooks take on a socialite to get some big cash fast, the kidnapping turns out to be the easiest bit; when they start calling her husband about ransoms, everything falls apart in the slowest moving car crash imaginable.
Aniston’s kidnapped wife, mother, socialite walks the fine line between terrified victim and pot-stirrer, as she and Louis form a bond – especially when crazy, gun-toting Nazi-paraphernalia-holder Richard (Mark Boone Junior) enters the mix. On the other side of the fence, Isla Fisher’s manipulative other woman – playing with Tim Robbins’ kinda-worried husband – form a nice balance of humour and real feeling. The only real lack of pay-off comes from Will Forte as a country club member, who has his own eyes on Aniston’s Mickey Dawson and knows all about the kidnapping, but never can get around to calling the police. It could be a silly side story, a farce wrapped around the darkness, but it ultimately leads to nothing but filler within an otherwise tightly-paced film.
Hawkes is great as Gara – it’s good to see him back on the big screen – and Jennifer Aniston is excellent too, but there’s a little emptiness to Life Of Crime, not so much style over substance, but a lack of heart between all the capering. Even with time dedicated to the characters and some solid scenes between Hawkes and Aniston, it never rises beyond the mediocre in terms of expanding the Rum Punch universe and getting into the headspace of each person. Nonetheless, Leonard’s jet-black humour is solid and some scenes are full of unhinged tension, despite us clearly knowing the outcome of certain characters. The starry cast and the collapsing crime is simple fun to watch. This may not be top-drawer Leonard but it’s far from Be Cool.
Life of Crime is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.