Leonard Lite 

Elmore Leonard's Low-Stakes Life of Crime

LIFE OF CRIME Ross Geller finally found a way around the restraining order.

LIFE OF CRIME Ross Geller finally found a way around the restraining order.

THE LATE Elmore Leonard probably wouldn't be too upset about Life of Crime. The latest of the crime novelist's books to have been adapted, director Daniel Schechter's rendition of Leonard's 1978 novel The Switch is faithful but lacking in spark. It's not terrible, but it doesn't compare in verve to better Leonard film interpretations like Jackie Brown and Out of Sight. "You get paid for it. That's the main thing," Leonard told the Detroit Free Press in 2010 of having his books turned into films (or TV shows, like Justified). "And when it's good, there's nothing better."

Assuming the option check cleared before his death last year, Crime's not a half-bad deal. Set in 1970s Detroit, it concerns the kidnapping of a long-suffering trophy wife, Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), whose crooked drunk of a real estate mogul husband Frank (Tim Robbins) declines to pay her ransom, in part because he plans to divorce her for his mistress, Melanie (a muted Isla Fisher). Low-level criminals Ordell (a charming Mos Def) and Louis (John Hawkes) are behind the operation, enlisting the feeble mind of Richard (Mark Boone Jr.), a farcically dumb Nazi enthusiast, to handle most of the dirty work.

The character development is sluggish across the board, but Life of Crime is a study of the fact that all of its players share some degree of criminality in their personalities. It's also a rather cutesy submission to the Stockholm syndrome genre, with Mickey and Louis bonding to the point of will-they-or-won't-they. The glibness of the proceedings is strangely listless, though, and the stakes feel about as high as they do during a night out at a dinner theater. Still, there's an old-fashioned simplicity in that level of entertainment, and not every film has to be a game-changer—if you're among those who enjoy the relative mindlessness of by-the-numbers crime comedy-lite, have I got a film for you.

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