True to the letter, if not the spirit, of Elmore Leonard’s fiction, Life of Crime is based on Leonard’s novel The Switch, set in the leisure-wear seventies of suburban Detroit.
Casting is safe but astute: Jennifer Aniston is effective as cute-but-underestimated trophy wife Mickey, saddled to boorish real-estate tycoon Frank (Tim Robbins), who has a mistress stashed away in the Bahamas. John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) and Yasiin Bey (a.k.a. ex-rapper Mos Def), are garrulous ex-cons Louis and Ordell, who kidnap Mickey and hold her for ransom.
Post-setup, the plot twists are lobbed in like slow curve balls: Frank, who has filed for divorce, doesn’t want to pay, and his gold-digging girlfriend Melanie (a feral Isla Fisher) handles the negotiations. Meanwhile, Mickey and Louis find themselves to be kindred souls.
All this is more amusing in theory than practice, partly because Leonard’s world of wiseguys and slapstick violence has become so familiar – the caper-movie default mode. Mostly, Life of Crime suffers in contrast to a stylish trio of Leonard adaptations – Barry Sonnenfeld’s Get Shorty (1995), Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997) and Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight (1998) – movies that honoured the master by being more original than faithful.