Picture this. A corrupt businessman calls his wife a trophy wife at a club. She smiles and pretends all is well. Soon they drive back. He drives drunk, she is at the edge and clearly unhappy. Later, she is in the kitchen, talking on the phone. She hangs up, turns around and freezes at the sight of two masked men with a gun and a knife. A car drives up the house backyard. A young man walks in, puts on romantic music, pours out two glasses of wine and walks to her bedroom. The door opens to reveal three masked faces, two of them holding one at a knife’s level. This is the first time when the newbie kidnappers realize; they have botched the job somewhat.
Later comes the bigger hurdle both they and the wife had not bargained for.
The wife, Mickey (Jennifer Aniston) is clueless of her husband’s wealth stashed away in secret bank accounts. She also doesn’t know that her husband, Dawson (Tim Robbins) is cavorting with his mistress, Melanie (Isla Fisher) while she is tied up in some hole with three unknown men. The third is a creepy, bearded fat man (Mark Boone Jr) who peeps through the bathroom hole every time she is inside. What she does to him, as a result, (signifying her character transition too), is a hilarious and gratifying moment in the film.
Soon the small time, fumbling first time kidnappers, Robbie (Yaslin Bey) and Louis (John Hawkes) realize Dawson may not cough up the ransom of one million dollars for his not so dear wife.
Those familiar with the crime novelist, Elmore Leonard’s work (out of Sight, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty) will enjoy Life of Crime, the latest adaptation of his novel, “The Switch”, set in Detroit of the Seventies.
The pace is leisurely. The tone is casual. The humour is ample, in small doses. The characters are convincingly real; a little wicked, a little human. The unlikely ones who capture an amusing shade of weakness and evil are Marshall (Will Forte), a spineless wannabe adulterer and Richard (Mark Boone), a pervert with Nazi fetish. Then there is Melanie, the mistress who takes the kidnappers’ threatening phone calls with the nonchalance of someone who answers mild pests from call centers.
The most disappointing parts unfortunately are the scenes involving Hawkes and Bey as harmless criminals. There is very little they do to keep the script either funny or tense. Jennifer Aniston, locked up in most parts, is fairly convincing and not too dramatic as the cute and ignorant wife with occasional nerves of steel.
By the time, the twist comes in the end, it is predictable yet perfect. Life of Crime is neither edgy nor laugh out loud funny. Nevertheless, very much enjoyable.