'Life of Crime': Plodding caper film misses the mark
Life of Crime is like an errant golf putt that appears headed for the hole, but just keeps rolling and rolling, all the way off the green. In other words, just missed . . . by a mile.
It begins deliriously well with the inspired casting of Yasiin Bey (also known as Mos Def) and John Hawkes as the typical Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern sort of overmatched rogues who roam Elmore Leonard's outlaw underworld. (The film is based on the late crime-fiction master's 1978 novel The Switch.)
The pair are planning the kidnapping of Mickey, the trophy wife (Jennifer Aniston) of a crass and crooked Detroit developer (Tim Robbins). Not well thought-out to begin with, the scheme grows increasingly doomed as more moving parts are introduced - particularly Mark Boone Junior (Sons of Anarchy) as the crooks' pervy, Nazi-cultist partner in crime.
Life of Crime is a nicely textured slice of the country-club set during the Disco Era. But director Daniel Schechter falls in love with his own script and ploddingly grinds through it. The result is more solemn reenactment than movie. It sorely lacks Leonard's mordant but affectionate tone.
There's also a gaping hole at the center of this enterprise. Aniston plays Mickey without any shadows at all. Her bland performance seems to self-erase as it unspools.
Life of Crime is a curious artifact, the awkward product of misinterpreting folly as melodrama.
Life of Crime ** (out of four stars)
Directed by Daniel Schechter. With Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey, Tim Robbins. Distributed by Lionsgate Entertainment.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 mins.
Parent's guide: R (nudity, profanity, adult themes, violence, smoking).
Playing at: PFS at the Roxy.