Meh. That’s the word I want to use when I think of an overall impression of Life of Crime. Released in 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival, Life of Crime is an independent crime-comedy film directed by Daniel Schechter. Although it’s classified as such, I did not find myself experiencing any kind of laughter. The writing, also done by Schechter and Elmore Leonard, is lackluster with little comedy. So….meh.
Ex-convict Ordell Robbie (Yasiin Bey) persuades Louis Gara (John Hawkes) to partner with him and the Nazi-supporter Richard (Mark Boone Jr) to pull off the kidnapping of Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Anniston). The kidnappers plan to demand a one million dollar ransom from Mickey’s husband, Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins), who has been keeping some excessive assets in a bank account kept secret from his wife. However, Ordell hasn’t done enough research and fails to realize that the Dawson marriage is in shambles. Mickey appears to be lingering on the thought of having an affair with one of Frank’s friends, Marshall Taylor (Will Forte); she is getting fed up with her abusive husband. Meanwhile, Frank is already fed up with Mickey, and on the cusp of filing for divorce. When Ordell and Louis come to abduct Mickey, they are surprised to find Marshall arriving at the house to pay her a visit – so they knock him out and leave him in the closet. However, the pair come to find out that Marshall is just a molehill…the mountain comes when Frank refuses to pay the ransom.
I had several problems with this film; but let’s begin with the writing of the characters. First of all, there were exactly two people with any sort of moral compass: Louis and Mickey. The other characters were morally disgusting, and not in the amusing way that Heath Ledger’s Joker was. Although he was kidnapping a woman, Louis did show remorse and also protected Mickey from the cruel intentions of his cohorts. Mickey is ever the sweet and innocent victim in both her marriage and her kidnapping. These two are the only somewhat likable characters.
Life of Crime is one of those flicks that shows the story through the views of the heroine and the villain(s) equally. The benefit of this type of film is that the villain has the chance to make the audience sympathetic for him or her. Life of Crime does not take advantage of this. The audience is given no information about the past of the kidnappers, and thus their actions are just black and white – there is no morally gray area. We aren’t even told what the partners need the money for! The only characters we get any back story on are Mickey and Frank; but even that back story is wanting. There is some good character development in Mickey, but overall the characters in this film lack depth.
Despite the problems with the actual characters, the acting in this film is just satisfactory; only one actor stands out in this film as more than that. Boone does a great portrayal of Richard (I always feel awkward when complimenting an actor on playing a horrifying character well!). Richard is clearly meant to be the truly terrible member of the kidnapping team, with all his Nazi paraphernalia and his aggressive attitude. There are even a few moments where Boone appears to be more of a literal beast than a man. Boone turns Richard into massive and terrifying villain – the kind you want to see burn.
This movie could have been so much more. The plot is an interesting and original idea, but the opportunity goes to waste under the writing and direction. Also, there are a few plot holes that the audience gets stuck on. Overall, the film is unengaging and a total miss.