Take a Drink: for each heist movie cliche
Take a Drink: each time a character puts on a mask
Do a Shot: for each nod to the 70’s
Take a Drink: during each stylishly edited scene transition
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
One of the most respected and acclaimed writers in both literature and film is Elmore Leonard. Leonard, who sadly passed away a little over a year ago, was quite respected for writing western novels and then crime thrillers. He was also known for writing very realistic dialogue and creating a great deal of realism in his works. He’s even written a couple of original screenplays, with both The Moonshine War and Joe Kid being great films.
The adaptations of Leonard’s work, however, have been mixed. While some adaptations of his work have inspired great movies like Get Shorty and Jackie Brown, and even the great television show Justified, others have failed to really represent his work. Both 52 Pick Up and The Big Bounce were quite bad, with The Big Bounce being quite terrible. Sadly, it seems like this latest Leonard adaptation Life of Crime falls into the latter category.
Based on Leonard’s novel The Switch, Life of Crime follows ex-cons Louis and Ordell, who are trying to cash-in by kidnapping Mickey Dawson, the wife of the rich entrepreneur Frank.
Life of Crime has a great deal of style. Director Daniel Schechter, who directed last year’s underrated Supporting Characters, does a nice job of capturing the 70’s in which the film is based. Schechter teamed with cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards gets some clean shots that capture 70’s culture without being too obvious. There are also some great musical cues and stylish scene transitions that add to the film’s overall style.
The cast here is game, and does a solid job with what they have to work with. Perhaps the actor I was most happy to see again was Mos Def, or as he is now known as Yasiin Bey. Bey has proven that he can be quite funny in any role he is in, but has not been in many movies recently. Here, Bey gets a lot out of his limited screen time, creating some of the film’s biggest laughs with his offbeat comedic stlyings. I really hope to see Bey do more films, because here he shows his talent.
Mostly everyone else also does a solid job in their roles in the film. Actors such as John Hawkes, Tim Robbins, and Jenifer Aniston do solid work, even though they are not stretching themselves as actors. Character actor Mark Boone Junior also does a solid job, playing one of the most insane character I’ve seen in a movie this year.
Some actors, however, do not get much of a chance to shine. Both Will Forte and Isla Fisher have proven in their careers that they can be quite charming and funny, yet have very little to work with in their slight roles. Instead of being able to use their talents, the duo have very little to do in bland roles, which is a shame especially after the great success that Forte has had over the past year or so.
Life of Crime also is lacking in big laughs. Adapted by Schechter as well, it seems that his work adapting Leonard’s novel is lacking the same great dialogue and laughs that are present in some of his work. There are a few laughs here, but it seems that most of these chuckles are more due to the effort by the cast, not well-written material.
Not only is the script here lacking in any major laughs, but also a well-developed narrative. Life of Crime’s story seems quite simple until the third act where as usual with a crime thriller, a lot of big twists happened. For me at least, some of the twists in the film were sloppily made, and were just basically a way to end the film with all the loose ends tied together.
While Schechter is able to create a sense of style, he fails to develop any sort of energy throughout the film. A great deal of Life of Crime feels quite dull, and could have used a boost of energy from the actors or the direction to liven the film up quite a bit. This makes quite a bit of the film’s 100 minute running time drag, hampering the elements about the movie that work.
Life of Crime’s biggest misstep is something this film could not have avoided. After there being many adaptations of Leornard’s work, it seems that all the aspects that made his work feel unique before now feels familiar. This is the aspect that plagues Life of Crime from start to finish.
While it was a sincere effort, Life of Crime feels too familiar to make much of an impact, and also seriously lacks in any laughs or an engaging story. Leonard fans still have the last season of Justified to look forward to as the proper send off to Leonard’s work in literature.