Life of Crime Blu-ray Review
The literary world lost a towering figure when Elmore Leonard died last year. Hollywood felt it too since his works have been repeatedly adapted for television and film. “Get Shorty”, “Out of Sight”, “Jackie Brown”, “3:10 to Yuma” and “Justified” are all derived from the fertile mind of Leonard. You know you are going to get snappy dialogue, strongly drawn characters and intense action. LIFE OF CRIME is an independent film that gets the feel and look of a Leonard work down pat. It is enjoyable to watch all the events unfurl.
LIFE OF CRIME is based on the novel “Switch” by Leonard. The movie is set in Detroit in 1978. The interesting part about this is that is when the novel was released. So Leonard did not write it as a period piece. Two of the characters here are revisited later in “Rum Punch”, which of course was made into “Jackie Brown”. The two characters are Ordell Robbie (Yasiin Bey formerly Mos Def) and Louis Gara (John Hawkes). They are two ex-cons looking for an easy score. They target Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), the wife of corrupt businessman Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins). Their plan is to kidnap Mickey and demand Frank to pay them one million dollars that he had stashed away in the Bahamas.
Director/Screenwriter Daniel Schechter perfectly captures the vibe of Elmore Leonard with his adaptation. Everything is in complete unison. Schechter does a nice job with the 70s without going overboard. You have the polyester, the hair styles, the music, the phones used and the mood itself. Those were groovy times. Everything felt in place, while characters didn’t spout off catch phrases from television shows or movies. That would have been taking the easy way out.
Frank and Mickey do not have happy marriage. We see Frank brazenly drive home drunk one night over Mickey’s objections. He makes it a sport to belittle her at every corner until she feels like nothing. The audience knows of this unease, but the two kidnappers are not fully aware of it. They think it will be a simple snatch and grab. But nothing ever goes as planned.
Ordell and Louis had tried to foresee everything that would happen. They knew Frank had gone out of town. They knew that their son was also out of the picture. They did not however predict the actions of Marshall Taylor (Will Forte). Marshall is a neighbor who has a thing for Mickey, but his love is not returned to him. Marshall comes over to the house when the kidnapping is in progress. It just adds another wrinkle to the proceedings.
In the preparation, Louis and Ordell brought Richard (Mark Boone Jr.) aboard for the operation. Richard is a neo-Nazi and a gun lover. The group uses his home as the base. New wrinkles arise as they find out that Frank has a longtime girlfriend named Melanie (Isla Fisher). Frank isn’t eager to pay the ransom since he plans to divorce Mickey and eventually marry Melanie.
Schechter keeps things moving and with a purpose. Some of the characters go through transformations during the ordeal. There are changing motivations for some characters as well. It really keeps you guessing on what will happen next. All of the acting is top notch. Jennifer Aniston is surprisingly good as a vulnerable woman who learns a lot about herself and learns how to stick up for herself. Bey and Hawkes have great chemistry on the screen. If they didn’t have that, the movie would not have worked as well.
LIFE OF CRIME is an enjoyable crime romp and worthy tribute to the talents of Elmore Leonard.
Video: The visuals of the 70s are perfectly captured on the screen.
Sound: The sound crackles through your television.
Audio Commentary with Director/Screenwriter Dan Schechter and Actor Will Forte: There is a nice rapport between the two. They each tell little tidbits about scenes and what they were going for.
Behind the Scenes of Life of Crime (10:06): The filmmakers and actors discuss the story, casting, costumes and the characters.
Envisioning the Big Picture: Shooting Crime (9:16): The director mostly talks about his journey in adapting Elmore Leonard’s novel. He shares his time he had with Leonard. The producers and actors also chime in about Leonard.
Hit & Run: Choreographing Mayhem (6:30): The director goes over his process in shooting action scenes. They involved extensive storyboarding and the use of a good stunt coordinator.
Deleted Scenes (10:20): Six scenes in all. Each character gets more screen time and is explored further. The scenes aren’t necessarily needed, but they do explain fuller the motivations the characters have.