Life Of Crime, film review: Jennifer Aniston stars in droll and well-observed comedy thriller

(15) Daniel Schechter, 99 mins Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, Tim Robbins, Will Forte, John Hawkes, Mos Def
Click to follow

The premise of this Elmore Leonard adaptation isn't original. The idea of hapless extortionists kidnapping a rich man's wife – and then discovering he doesn't want her back – could have been taken wholesale from Ruthless People.

Nonetheless, this is a droll and well-observed comedy thriller that recreates the 1970s in convincing fashion while retaining enough of a sense of menace to avoid ever drifting off into whimsy.

Jennifer Aniston (whose celebrity risks blinding audiences to her qualities as a comic actress) excels as Mickey Dawson, the neglected wife seized by two petty criminals. Ordell (played by the hip-hop star Mos Def under his name Yasiin Bey) is the more pragmatic and vicious of the kidnappers, ready to cut off her fingers and kill her if need be. His accomplice Louis (John Hawkes) is a dreamy, incongruously polite hoodlum who can't hide the fact that he has a crush on his victim.

The husband (Tim Robbins in an enjoyably sleazy groove) is away in Florida with his voluptuous (and cynical) young mistress (Isla Fisher), and is in no hurry to get his wife back. The writer-director Daniel Schechter approaches the film as if it is a character-driven Sidney Lumet thriller rather than a knockabout farce. The humour here is dry and very understated.