Life of Crime

John Hawkes & Jennifer Anniston, Life of Crime

John Hawkes & Jennifer Anniston, Life of Crime

Netflixed this 2014 comedy (trailer), which slipped into and out of theaters this fall faster than a rumor. It’s based on Elmore Leonard’s novel, The Switch. Directed by Daniel Schechter, it features Jennifer Aniston (Mickey), Mos Def (Ordell), John Hawkes (Louis), and a strong supporting cast. (Several characters, including the two male leads were revisited in Quentin Tarantino’s considerably more violent Jackie Brown, based on another Elmore Leonard novel, Rum Punch.)

Much more The Ransom of Red Chief than Fargo, Life of Crime is about a kidnapping gone wrong. Louis and Ordell snatch trophy-wife Mickey only to find out her husband (Tim Robbins) is on the verge of divorcing her anyway. If they carry out their threats to kill her, they’ll save him millions in settlement costs.

Much of the humor comes from the bumbling characters who muddy the kidnappers’ scheme. They’ve sought the help of a Nazi-loving nut case (Mark Boone Junior) who has a spare room where they can stash Mickey, and she is pursued by a hapless and creepily smitten tennis club dad (Will Forte). The only sharp knife in the drawer is the husband’s new girlfriend (Isla Fisher), who’s just too smart for her own good. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 65 percent rating, with critics mostly objecting to low energy, lack of real menace, and perhaps the false expectation of Jackie Brown/Tarantino-style violence. Instead, the film is an “amiable diversion” with “ambling charm.”

(Trivia note: The title may have been changed from Leonard’s original because Aniston starred in a totally different comedy titled The Switch in 2010, and in an eruption of self-referential promotion, the DVD for Life of Crime included previews for both The Switch and Jackie Brown.)