'Life Of Crime' Has Authentic Elmore Leonard Snap

Aug 29, 2014
Originally published on August 29, 2014 11:20 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Elmore Leonard wrote close to 50 novels during his life. Several were made into films and the latest, "Life Of Crime" is based on his 1978 book "The Switch." The movie is out this weekend. Kenneth Turan has our review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: No one brought more panache to crime presented with a wicked sense of humor than the late Elmore Leonard. With its brisk plotting and smart dialogue, "Life Of Crime" has the authentic Leonard snap, crackle and pop. And it's got a cast, starting with Jennifer Aniston, that understands how to pull off a character comedy, delicately balanced between mayhem and humor. The year is 1978 and "Life Of Crime" begins with two bad guys, played by John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey, plotting an evil deed. They've discovered that real estate developer Frank Dawson has been skimming money off of the top. So they plan to kidnap Frank's trophy wife, Mickey, played by Aniston, while Frank is out of town and tell him he has to pay $1 million ransom, or he doesn't get to see his wife again - ever.

Things start to fall apart right from the get-go. As Frank, played by Tim Robbins, has trouble following simple instructions.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LIFE OF CRIME")

JOHN HAWKES: (As Louis Gara) Tomorrow morning, you're going to go to the bank and draw $1 million out of your account and deposit to account number 895...

TIM ROBBINS: (As Frank Dawson) Slow down. What am I, a stenographer?

TURAN: For though the bad guys have come up with a fine plan for kidnapping Mickey, as in all Leonard concoctions, it doesn't go far enough. It doesn't, for instance, take into account Marshall Taylor, played by Will Forte, a persistent country club swain with a yen for wife Mickey, who has a habit of showing up at the least opportune times.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LIFE OF CRIME")

WILL FORTE: (As Marshall Taylor) You know, I seem to recall saying something to you last night - do you remember?

JENNIFER ANISTON: (As Mickey Dawson) What?

FORTE: (As Marshall Taylor) I asked if you'd have lunch with me.

ANISTON: (As Mickey Dawson) Marshall, you were drunk. We all were. You say things.

FORTE: (As Marshall Taylor) What if I meant it?

TURAN: As "Crime's" plot gets more complex, it's hard to avoid trying to guess how things will turn out. But the truth is it can't be done. An Elmore Leonard cocktail of crime, comedy and character has to be mixed to exact proportions and only the master can get it right.

GREENE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and also for The Los Angeles Times.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.