Life of Crime (R)

Comedy 94 August 29, 2014
By Alan Scherstuhl
Weep at another whiff of an Elmore Leonard adaptation, one that nails down neither the peppery laughs nor the street-crime desperation key to the writer's work. Instead, the comedy's too broad to take the characters seriously, and the vibe is breezily aimless, a mistake in a story about anxious waiting. The Switch, the Leonard tale getting the movie-star makeover, concerns a couple hoods' kidnapping of a rich crook's wife — but come to find out the crook's just served her with papers and prefers that she be kidnapped. Jennifer Aniston is the wife, and she's almost worth the ticket price — she wields that endlessly expressive face of hers to evince fear, confusion, amusement, and, annoyance, often all at once. (Her filmy '70s blouses suggest someone should build an American Hustle around her.)

Aniston's character's holed up in the stinking home of a cartoonish neo-Nazi, where kidnappers (John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey) try to sweat bucks out of her husband (Tim Robbins), who's at the beach with his mistress (Isla Fisher) and won't return the kidnappers' calls. A few strong, stinging moments aside, the film's often slack, and key scenes are AWOL. When the double crosses start, we just have to take the movie's word that somewhere in there Character B and Character C have discovered something worth trusting in one another. Robbins is funny as a golden boy gone to pot but convinced he's still golden, but he vanishes for long stretches. It's all set in Detroit in the '70s, and the only female black character who is given a name is on-screen for less than 30 seconds, her breasts exposed for a sight gag about "big tittays."
Daniel Schechter Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, Tim Robbins, John Hawkes, Will Forte, Mos Def, Charlie Tahan, Seana KofoedJenna Nye Elmore Leonard ARRAY(0x3001f18)

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