Dead or alive, Elmore Leonard’s still got the best ear in the business. The late author’s dialogue sparkles in Life of Crime, a perfectly fine double-cross comedy from director Daniel Schechter, who at least knows to keep things cooking. (Background: The original source material, Leonard’s 1978 novel The Switch, is set in the same universe as Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.) Actor John Hawkes finds a much-needed modulation from his onscreen creeps (e.g., Winter’s Bone) as Louis, the film’s crafty Detroit operator, and Yasiin Bey (better known as Mos Def), playing an Ordell much younger than Samuel L. Jackson’s version, is excellent too.
But this one belongs to the women: As a gold-digging mistress, Isla Fisher does half-smart expertly, while Jennifer Aniston demonstrates her underrated timing as a wealthy kidnapping victim turned confidante. Nothing about Life of Crime is going to linger in memory, save the unassuming way Leonard devoted himself to character and story mechanics. If this diversion works for you, you owe yourself a book or two.
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