Life of Crime

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Life of Crime

It’s ’70s Detroit, and small-time crooks Ordell (Yasiin Bey – formerly known as Mos Def) and Louis (John Hawkes) have come up with a way to hit it big. They’ve found out that celebrity golfer Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins), who’s also a Detroit property developer, is on top of that making a whole lot of dodgy money via shady business practices. So they figure if they kidnap his wife Mickey (Jennifer Aniston) and hold her for ransom, with what they know about his earnings he’ll have no choice but to pay up. The kidnapping itself goes off smoothly, but there’s a hitch: it turns out that Frank has a mistress, Melanie (Isla Fisher), and with his marriage firmly on the rocks – the divorce papers were sent out the day Mickey was kidnapped – he may not want to spend up big to get his wife back.
Based on the Elmore Leonard novel Switch, this has all the snappy dialogue and smart plotting you’d expect. Bey’s smooth charm works well with his playing the slightly more sinister of the duo – Louis you can trust to do the right thing even if it means he won’t get paid, while Ordell seems just a little bit more focused on the money – while Hawkes as a put-upon nice guy makes for a nice change from his recent run of sinister roles.
The trouble here is that while the story doesn’t exactly fizzle out, the third act twists and turns don’t really generate enough drama for a strong finish. Aniston’s character turns out to be smart enough to see a way clear for herself, Louis takes a bit of a liking to her, Melanie turns out to not be as smart as she thinks she is, and it all wraps up nicely enough without ever really ramping up. So while this is a solid crime film with a few fun quirks, it’s not up there with the first run of Leonard adaptations – it’ll remind you of Out of Sight and Jackie Brown, but it’s not going to replace them.