‘Life of Crime’ a small-scale ‘Jackie Brown’ 

click to enlarge Jennifer Aniston
  • Jennifer Aniston stars in “Life of Crime,” a new movie based on a book by Elmore Leonard.
“Life of Crime” is the newest movie adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, and like some of the best ones, it’s twisty, smart, funny and filled with colorful characters.

Its main drawback is its tenuous connection with Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film “Jackie Brown.”

“Jackie Brown” was based on Leonard’s 1992 novel “Rum Punch,” while “Life of Crime” is based on a previous novel, “The Switch,” published in 1978.

“Rum Punch” was a semi-sequel to “The Switch,” carrying over some of the same characters, which means that “Life of Crime” is a semi-prequel to “Jackie Brown.” In reality, the two movies are quite different, and each adaptation moves in a different direction from its source.

But nevertheless, here is Ordell Robbie, played by Samuel L. Jackson before, and currently by Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def).

Louis Gara, previously played by Robert De Niro, is now played by John Hawkes. Melanie originally played by Bridget Fonda, is now played by Isla Fisher.

In “Life of Crime,” Louis and Ordell develop a plan to kidnap Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), the aging trophy wife of a wealthy property magnate, Frank (Tim Robbins).

Unfortunately, Frank doesn’t care about his wife. He wants to divorce her and marry his new, younger lover, Melanie.

Will Forte plays an ineffectual suitor of Mickey, and Mark Boone Junior plays a creepy collector of Nazi propaganda and a creator of peepholes, through which he watches Mickey.

Admittedly, “Life of Crime” does not have a great deal of action. Even the kidnapping scene is fairly low-key. Mickey cuts her foot on a dropped jar, and that’s about it.

Characters frequently sit around kitchen tables or living room sofas, attempting to anticipate upcoming moves.

Writer-director Daniel Schechter — whose previous film was the low-budget “Supporting Characters” — has the foresight to set the movie in 1978, when the book was written, thereby avoiding the traps of modern technology. Sets and costumes, as well as the highly skilled cast and the colorful dialogue, give the film a low-key, yet brisk, forward-moving energy.

Still, “Jackie Brown” is a good deal more kinetic, as well as more emotionally involving than “Life of Crime.”

Leonard fans may want to consider “Life of Crime” among some classic B-movies based on his stories, such as “The Tall T,” or as a pure lightweight entertainment like “Get Shorty.” To put it more plainly, it’s more of a little misdemeanor than a big crime, but it gets the job done.


Life of Crime

Starring Jennifer Aniston, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), John Hawkes, Isla Fisher

Written and directed by Daniel Schechter

Rated R

Running time 1 hour, 34 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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