Oil and water may not mix, but Jennifer Aniston proves that she mixes quite well with the late author, Elmore Leonard’s, witty crime writing style by acting in Life of Crime, based on his Detroit-set 1978 crime novel, The Switch. Part crime drama, part black comedy, the R-rated Life of Crime might not be the best movie adaptation of a Leonard novel; but, ably directed by Daniel Schechter and starring Mos Def (using his real name, Yaiisin Bey) and Tim Robbins besides Aniston, it is an entertaining way to spend 99 minutes of your time.
For thriller, mystery, Western (yes, Western) and crime novel aficionados, author Elmore Leonard, who died a year ago this August, has had his books made into several movies and also the TV series, Justified. Some of the flicks made from his novels are Get Shorty, Joe Kidd, 3:10 to Yuma, Out of Sight, Hombre, 52 Pick-Up and Jackie Brown.
At first blush, it might seem that an actress like Jennifer Aniston, who many people still associate withe the role of Rachel in the TV series, Friends, might not be the best choice to cast in an Elmore Leonard movie. But, Aniston is a versatile actress. It also helps that the role of the character she plays, kidnapped trophy wife, Mickey Dawson, seems to have been expressly written for her.
At the start of Life of Crime, kidnapper Ordell Robbie, played by Mos Def, asks an accomplice over the phone if he is ready to do the kidnapping of Mickey Dawson. The accomplice is Louis Gara, played by actor John Hawkes. They believe that, by kidnapping Mickey, the trophy wife of rich and corrupt real estate developer Frank Dawson — played by Tim Robbins — they will have a big payday ahead of them.
The pair demand that Mickey’s husband, Frank, give them $1 million dollars for the safe return of his wife. The problem that confronts the kidnappers is that Frank does not want to give them the money and he seems fairly glad that his wife is out of the picture. With Mickey gone, Frank feels at ease to enjoy the company of his mistress, Melanie (Isla Fisher), in the Bahamas. It is a pleasant place for him to spend the money he has been skimming from his business for years.
The kidnappers, Ordell and Louis, bring a third partner into the arrangement, Richard, a rather dim neo-Nazi, gun-loving nut job who lives with his mom. Richard is played by Sons of Anarchy actor, Mark Boone Junior. The walls of his house have pictures of Hitler on them. Richard’s gun collection is almost as extensive as his collection of Nazi memorabilia.
Will Forte as Mickey’s country club would-be suitor, Marshall, happens to sneak into her bedroom at the wrong time, with a pair of martinis in hand. He realizes that something is not quite right when he sees Mickey with a gun pointed towards her. Her head is covered with a hood.
After that, the kidnappers take Mickey to Richard’s house. Locked up in a bedroom, with plywood nailed over the windows, Mickey seems to be in desperate straits. If the kidnappers do not get their $1 million, they threaten that they will kill Mickey. As far as Frank is concerned, things just seem to be getting better and better.
An odd sort of romance develops between kidnapper Louis and his victim, Mickey. Louis starts to have feelings for Mickey and get protective of her. It is not as easy to make a dishonest buck as the kidnappers had originally hoped.
Life of Crime, based on the Elmore Leonard crime novel, The Switch, has just the right mix of drama and comedy in it to make a winning combination. Louis (John Hawkes) as a “good” bad guy and Jennifer Aniston as Mickey were inspired casting choices. Mos Def and Tim Robbins both wonderfully play characters that are despicable in different ways in this entertaining movie. Author Elmore Leonard was an executive producer. Check out the trailer below!
Written By Douglas Cobb
Life of Crime Official Trailer #1