Overview: Two incompetent criminals kidnap a wealthy man’s wife for ransom only to discover he doesn’t really want her returned home. 2014; distributed by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions; rated R, 99 minutes.
Lost In Translation: Life of Crime is the latest edition to a long list of Elmore Leonard books that have been adapted for the big screen. From westerns to suspenseful thrillers, Leonard’s style of writing makes any of his stories easy to translate to film; however, in this case something seems to have been lost along the way. The movie is advertised as a crime-comedy-drama, yet it never succeeds in being a solid representation of any of these, unlike some of the previous, more well rounded Leonard adaptions. It lacks the characterization to create the drama (see Jackie Brown), falls flat on the sharp-witted jokes to bring the laughs (see Get Shorty), and doesn’t raise the stakes enough with the crime (see Out of Sight). As a result, Life of Crime ends up coming off as a mediocre, bored mash up of multiple genres instead of a solid, focused representation of one.
If They Don’t Care, Why Should We?: One thing this movie isn’t lacking is star power, boasting a cast that includes the likes of Tim Robbins, Jennifer Aniston, and Mos Def. The only problem is, these big name actors aren’t given much to work with, and it’s evident they’re just as bored as we are. After all, actors can only take a weak, lazily written script so far. Jennifer Aniston’s portrayal of an unappreciated trophy wife (Mickey Dawson) who gets kidnapped is largely detached and unemotional, and Tim Robbins as the husband and the mark (Frank Dawson) doesn’t seem to even know or care where he is or what he’s doing in most of his scenes. The two surprising saving graces are Isla Fisher as Frank’s mistress, Melanie, and Mark Boone Jr., the horny, peeping Tom who houses the kidnappers and their hostage. Fisher shows off her ability to play the men she comes across like a fiddle, acting like she’s amused by a secret we all wish we could be in on. And Boone flails around with reckless abandon, appealing to our desire to be as oblivious to what’s around us as he is. Both of them are having more fun than everyone else combined.
Final Thoughts: Lackluster writing and a loss of identity make Life of Crime one of the most disappointing Leonard adaptations yet.