An immutable law of Hollywood is that where there is a genre movie, there will be another close behind it. Whether it’s cowboys, gangsters, aliens or monsters, if there’s a blockbuster tearing it up then someone will be ordering up a swift knock-off before the public gets bored and moves onto the next thing.
And thus in the brief moment where fast-talking, moustachioed, ’70s hucksters are all the rage, Life of Crime was born of American Hustle.
Of course as the first alternative, director Daniel Schechter must make do and mend with C-listers where David O. Russell got a stellar cast to front up his own enjoyably stylised piece of fluff.
A pair of low-lifes (John Hawkes and Mos Def) hatch a plan to make a million by kidnapping the wife of a sleazy property developer. They’ve done their research but the plan isn’t quite steel plated, and when the hubby (Tim Robins) refuses to cough up they have to figure out what to do with their bait (Jennifer Aniston).
Add in the kidnappers’ perverted neo-Nazi partner in crime (Mark Boone Junior), the wife’s would-be suitor (Will Forte) and the husband’s gold-digging lover (Isla Fisher) and there’s as much sass, snappy dialogue and crosses both double and triple as is to be expected from an Elmore Leonard adaptation.
Director Schechter keeps things lively in his first big film, and plays his cuts and characters with all due reverence to the source novel. Among the players, Hawkes and Def make for an easy, likeable team and although Robins phones it in a bit, Aniston has some fun playing straight-ish for once.
As with American Hustle, though, it’s the period touches that elevate Life of Crime above the mundane. Country-club casual, pimp-styling and Plymouth fastbacks abound, and if there’s a phone ringing somewhere you know it’s going to be retro.
If the Hustle was up your street there’s nothing in this crime caper that won’t float your boat.