Cast: Jennifer Aniston, yasiin bey (a.k.a. Mos Def), Isla Fisher, Will Forte, Mark Boone Junior, Tim Robbins
Director: Daniel Schechter
Running Time: 99 minutes
Synopsis: Author Elmore Leonard's characters Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara were made famous on the screen by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. Stepping into the skin of Robbie and Gara for a very different adventure set fifteen years prior to the events of Jackie Brown, yasiin bey and John Hawkes star in Daniel Schechter's new -70s caper comedy, Life Of Crime.
Fresh out of prison, where they bonded over their similar convictions for grand theft auto, Ordell (bey) and Louis (Hawkes) have already decided to team up when they catch wind of Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins), a Detroit property developer and secret embezzler. Their plan is simple: they'll kidnap Frank's country-club wife, Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), and hold her for ransom. What the duo didn't count on is that Frank's affections have turned to his perky young mistress, Melanie (Isla Fisher), and he may not be in a rush to rescue his spouse. Eliciting Mickey's insider knowledge, the crooks shift gears, frantically devising a new plan.
I basically only read books based on movies I liked when I was young. To name a few: THE GODFATHER, JURASSIC PARK and INDEPENDENCE DAY (which, only in hindsight, did I learn was a disappointing novelization of the film.) I barely read anything assigned to me in school. It wasn't until college that I robbed my big brother of his copy of GET SHORTY, by Elmore Leonard. It had a lot going for it; Obviously, it was based on a movie I knew and liked, but also it had a large typeface and paragraphs I wouldn't describe as "dense."
I defy anyone to pick up an Elmore Leonard novel, read the first chapter, the first page, maybe even the first sentence and try to put one down. He's ruined me for other writers, who for my money, may never match his wit, his originality and his humanity. Leonard was commonly hailed as "The King Daddy of crime writers" and "The best writer of dialogue alive," (both are opinions to which I also subscribe). Though I believe its his golden rule of "leaving out the parts most people skip" that made him the best in the business. It's a philosophy I try to adhere to in my screenwriting (and later, when I didn't skip enough, in editing.)
As a filmmaker, I never picked up a book of his without the hope of falling in love and one day passionately fighting to adapt it into a film. With most, I'd stop seeing it as a movie after chapter four and just enjoy the rest as a reader. A few, like TISHOMINGO BLUES and PAGAN BABIES, still seem like future classics ripe for the adaptin'... but THE SWITCH, however, was the one for me. A cinematic experience from the first line to last word (both of which ended up in the final film, by the way.)
To me the book was like Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers and Woody Allen somehow created a brainchild of a project. Filled with unexpected humor, tension, thrills, twists and unforgettable characters.
Now the process of getting an unknown writer/director attached to make a best-selling novel by Leonard- which happened to contain the same characters as the great Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown- and then attaching an all-star dream cast to play the seven leads- is a long story (too long and convoluted to go into here) of uncanny luck, patience, determination and wonderful people who saw something both in me and in this project.
I'd like to think they saw how deeply protective I felt of the material. Leonard adaptations certainly aren't Teflon. No, I'm not going to list the less impressive ones here, but Leonard himself surely wasn't shy about publicly insulting them (a thought which often haunts me). His tone, to me, is deeply imbedded in reality, yet there's always a temptation to indulge in his characters' and storylines' idiosyncrasies. But I believe the genius of Leonard is taking the reader and placing them in the center of a surreal scenario and discovering how real people would handle it in a world we recognize. In this case, a kidnapping.
I read the book like a musician reads a piece of music he or she believes they can both play, and hopefully add something to. Life Of Crime is a story about complex people trying to make the most of a simple plan gone wrong. It's my love letter to the work of Elmore Leonard, which now and always will continue to remind me that being honest and being entertaining never have to be mutually exclusive.
Life Of Crime
Release Date: September 25th, 2014