Friday, 12 September 2014

Life of Crime (2013)

Little known fact: Robert de Niro and Samuel L Jackson play the same characters in the sequel to this film!

Jennifer Aniston plays trophy housewife who is kidnapped by a gang (John Garcia, Will Forte, and the artist formerly known as Mos Def) who doesn’t realise that her wealthy, abusive, and very crooked husband (Tim Robbins) is having an affair with a scheming, half-smart mistress (Isla Fischer), about to divorce her, and isn’t at all inclined to cough up the dough for her safe release.

In theory, an Elmore Leonard film adaptation just writes itself. Aside from an ear for the rhythm and flow of regional dialect, the king of crime fiction and suspense thrillers made it his gimmick to make interesting the lull between the violence and action, where everyone is on tenterhooks trying to outguess their mark and one-up each other, where everyone is liable to royally screw things up, where everyone is making deals with their eyes blindfolded, and where everyone is forced to deviate from their best laid plans—to great hilarity.

Daniel Schechter does punctuate Life of Crime with moments of comic action and violence but for the most part, Aniston and the gang are holed up in a small safe-house, providing the laughs by living the domestic existence of a dysfunctional family while players further afield keep changing their minds about saving her, which then provide more laughs as the gang try to improvise.

To say more would be to give the film away. Suffice to say that that for this film to tread as softly as the source material, to play for laughs but not for howls of laughter, is a miracle of balanced directing and disciplined acting by its ensemble cast.

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