HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Life of Crime
HTS Overall Score:80
“Life of Crime” is based on a wryly comedic novel penned by Elmore Leonard about a jaded socialite who gets kidnapped in order to leverage a million bucks out of the husband. Things obviously don’t go as planned and chaos ensues. I personally love a good dry, blackly comedic film. It’s one of the reasons why I love Wes Anderson’s movies so much, as they make you giggle and laugh at the most inopportune times and still carry plenty of heart and drama to them. “Life of Crime” stumbles a bit on the dry humor, as I’ve seen it done with much better polish and effect in other films, but the crime drama is actually the most compelling point of the movie for me as Tim Robbins and Jennifer Aniston steal the dramatic heart to the movie. Especially since Tim Robbins is so uniquely qualified to play a complete and utter scumbag.
Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston) is a rich socialite with one problem, her husband doesn’t exactly treat her very well. He’s off getting drunk, hobnobbing with the upper crust and leaving her behind so he can shtoop another woman behind her back. This doesn’t exactly seem like the perfect woman to kidnap for a ransom does it? This doesn’t deter, Louis (John Hawkes), Ordell (Mos Def) and Richard (Mark Boone Jr.), a trio of hapless wanna be tough guys, from kidnapping Mickey and trying to use her as leverage to get $1 million from her husband, Frank (Tim Robbins). The plan goes swimmingly, with Mickey scooped out of her home and kept locked up while they try and get the cool million. The problem comes when Frank doesn’t want to pay the ransom. He’s already getting ready to divorce her so that he can live with his new girlfriend, Melanie (Isla Fisher), and this is the perfect excuse. Now it’s a cat and mouse game as the kidnappers try to wheedle the money out of dear old Frank, all the while Frank and Melanie are shrugging their shoulders with glee as they get away scot free.
Things get spun for a loop when Ordell gets mixed up with Melanie, and Louis starts to develop a soft spot for Mickey. They can’t keep her locked up forever and it doesn’t seem like they can get the money out of Frank using her as leverage, so things have to get turned upside down and some out of the box thinking must be used, as Mickey now knows that her husband really doesn’t care that much for her and she really has nothing else to lose at the moment. Thus some hilarious and quirky dealings snow ball into one giant mess of a situation.
“Life of Crime” isn’t a perfect dry comedy crime caper (again, say that three times fast), but it still has a lot of charm going for it. Mos Def, John Hawkes and Mark Boone Jr. are both simultaneously hilarious and creepy as they pull off their bad guy slapstick humor laced with a bit of dark criminal intent. Mark Boone is epic, though, as he can switch between stupidly funny, and just plain twistedly psycho in the blink of an eye. One moment you’re watching him bumble through a kidnapping and the next you’re horrified and glad when he actually ends up being shot for his actions. Mos Def, is Mos Def, as he charms his way through everything, up to and including Frank’s mistress, Melanie. All the while you (as well as Mickey) chuckle at and then start to form a bond with John Hawke’s character Louis. While these goofballs are the central humorous target, Tim Robbins just steals the show as the duplicitous and just plain revolting husband, Frank. I don’t know what it is about Tim Robbins, but the man has an incredible knack for playing characters that you absolutely hate and despise with all your heart and soul. I don’t know whether it’s a gift, or a curse, but it works well here. There are a few chuckle worth cameos, especially with Will Forte playing Mickey’s wannabe suitor, Marshall, and even a quick glimpse at a deadpan comedy legend, Kevin Corrigan to round out the cast.
Much of the comedy is dry, sometimes a bit too dry as it’s not nearly as funny as the novel was. Some of the humor tries a bit too hard at being subtle, and you basically end up missing it. However, the crime caper is quite well done and is captivating enough on its own. Don’t get me wrong, I was chuckling quite often, it just wasn’t as often as I’d have hoped I would be in comparison to the novel. The last several seconds of the movie had me in stitches though, as it’s the perfect ending for a botched up kidnapping like this one was.
Rated R for language, some sexual content and violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=30977[/img]“Life of Crime” looks exceptional on Blu-ray disc. Presented in its native 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the heavily stylized pictures is this shy of perfect. Filled with the bronzed yellows of the 1970’s and the overblown whites of films trying to replicate that era, the image is riddled with colors that lean a lot towards the pastels and any primaries have brightened whites that almost fade them out a bit towards that color grading. The detail is quite good, with stunningly exceptional close up shots that reveal veins, hairs, razor burn and the like with jaw dropping clarity, and then the long shots tend to look a bit softish and smoothed. While most peoples close ups are incredibly detailed, I noticed that Tim Robbins and Jennifer Aniston had some facial smoothing going on in, what seems like, an effort to make them look younger and hide any skin flaws on their aging faces. Contrasts are a bit boosted, on purpose, and skin tones occasionally can take on a whitish or ruddy hue depending on the color’s they are around. Black levels look quite good and the only disc aberration I really noticed was some intermittent color banding in a few scenes.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=30993[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on the disc is quite pleasant, but unfortunately a tad light in the loafers in regards to surround activity. I really liked the front soundstage as it was used exquisitely for the majority of the film, giving way to some nice panning effects and excellent directionality. When it came to those rear channels, though, I felt a bit disappointed, as some low level ambient sounds came through, but not a lot else. When the front channels were rocking the house, those back channels were nearly whisper quiet. Clarity of dialogue and balance with the mains was impeccable, as every line was heard as clear as a bell. Dynamic range was solid, if a bit mild at times and the LFE was used to boost the 70’s style sound track with a pleasing amount of weight.
• Audio commentary with writer/director Daniel Schechter and actor Will Forte
• Behind the scenes of Life of Crime
• Envisioning the Big Picture: Shooting crime featurette
• Hit & Run: Choreographing mayhem
• Deleted Scenes
I had fun watching “Life of Crime”, I’m not going to be putting it on my top ten favorite black comedies of all times list, but I certainly had a nice smile on my face the whole time. The characters are quirky and darkly comedic and the crime caper was surprisingly well done. It has a few flaws, and a few leaps of logic, but nothing that’s really going to get in the way of the enjoyment factor. Extremely stylized and reminiscent of the good ole 70’s the movie makes for a very pleasant rental. Recommended for a nice rental, or even a pickup if you’re really into dry comedies.
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, John Hawkes, Isla Fisher, Will forte, Mark Boone Junior, Yasin Bey
Directed by: Daniel Schechter
Written by: Daniel Schechter, Elmore Leonard (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 DD
Runtime: 101 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 21st 2014
Buy Life of Crime Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Good Rental
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