A Life of Crime – Review by Helen O’Leary
A Life of Crime is an Elmore Leonard crime novel adapted for the screen and directed by Daniel Schechter. Two bumbling criminals played by John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey are privy to information about shady business dealings of a Detroit real estate developer. Armed with this intelligence they come up with a sloppy plan to kidnap Mr. Dawson’s wife (Jennifer Anniston) and extort a million dollar ransom. Unbeknownst to the criminals Mr. Dawson isn’t all that fond of his wife anymore and has just filed for divorce. There’s a new lady in his life (Isla Fisher) and she is determined that Mr. Dawson and his ill-gotten gains will not be so easily parted.
These two criminals are inconsistent masters of their art to say the least. They steal a car in the smoothest manoeuvre you ever did see, but there’s an element of farce to the execution of their kidnapping. They march around the Dawson’s front garden in broad daylight with Halloween masks in situ. Much of their antics are blundering and farcical yet the duo are unexpectedly canny at times.
In general the strong cast carry this film along where it threatens to falter. Jennifer Anniston puts in a good performance as Mrs. Dawson. She remains remarkably unfazed throughout the kidnapping ordeal and is transformed from long suffering wife to a savvier and street-smart version of herself. It would be nice to see Anniston expand her on-screen repertoire of facial expressions; she reverts to her placid “I’m taking a deep breath and sighing internally’” expression quite a lot in this film. Tim Robbins is well cast as the smug and self-important Mr. Dawson. Mark Boone Junior gives a stand out performance as Richard, an additional accomplice to the kidnapping. He is an unkempt collector of guns and Nazi memorabilia, slightly crazy and very creepy. It is Richard’s house where the gang incarcerate Mrs. Dawson and he persistently peers at Jennifer Anniston through some specially drilled wall holes until rewarded with a burning cigarette jabbed in his eye.
Billed as a comedy, this film is a little short on laughs but moves along at pace with a few twists and turns and a diverting cast. Not by any means a must see movie, but entertaining nonetheless.