Directed by Daniel Schechter
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Mos Def, John Hawkes, Isla Fisher, Mark Boone Junior
Life of Crime is about four people who have all seen better days, living in a city that has seen better days. This sense of what could have been permeates this crime caper/character study.
Based on Elmore Leonard’s novel The Switch, it involves two small-time crooks, Louis (Hawkes) and Ordell (Def), and a woman, Mickey (Aniston), they kidnap hoping to make money off her rich, philanderer and not-so-above-board husband (Frank, played by Robbins). Only the husband, being the philanderer and not-so-above-board man that he is, isn’t interested in paying up. Any good intentions he has are cleverly tackled by his pushy mistress, Melanie (Fisher), while disinterestedly adjusting her bikini straps.
That’s not the only problem Louis and Ordell face. On the day they broke into Mickey’s immaculate suburban home to kidnap her, a family friend who has a crush on her also landed up with martinis in hand. If that guy is a ticking time bomb, so is the owner of the house Louis and Ordell are keeping Mickey in. Richard (Boone Junior) has Nazi flags all over his house, a vague hatred for Jews and “niggers” — though no problems with the very Black Ordell — and wields guns and herbs with equal ease. Unknown to Louis and Ordell, he has drilled holes in walls and the toilet door to watch Mickey.
Louis and Ordell incidentally featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, based on Leonard’s own sort-of sequel to The Switch: The Rum Punch.
At the leisurely pace set by Schechter, also the screenwriter, each of the actors has a clear understanding of what is demanded of him or her. Hawkes is the lover boy half in awe of Mickey even before he has entered her house. Def is the driver of this crime who knows when he is being had. Aniston is the long-suffering and (yes!) drab wife who perceptibly blossoms away from her husband’s company. Robbins is the unlikeable cad who throws his weight around but, when the going gets tough, lets his much-too-young mistress do all the heavy lifting. Boone Junior is the clumsy oaf who may or may not be the killer he thinks he is. Fisher does the most delicate balancing act of all, knowing when her man wants her to lie low and when he wouldn’t mind her on top.
The film itself could do with some bit of tightening, but while they are on screen, it’s a pleasure to watch each one of them. Particularly Aniston, who once again shows that she clearly understands what she represents and how to make the most of it.