A strong cast anchors the low-key ‘Life of Crime’

Surprise! You’re being kidnapped.

Three stars

Life of Crime Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, John Hawkes. Directed by Daniel Schechter. Rated R. Available on Video on Demand.

As far as Elmore Leonard adaptations go, Life of Crime has nothing on Get Shorty or Out of Sight or Jackie Brown, but it does a better job of translating the late crime novelist’s work than plenty of other movies have. Based on Leonard’s 1978 novel The Switch, Life of Crime takes place in that same year in Detroit, where two small-time criminals (John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def) conspire to kidnap Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), the wife of a wealthy, corrupt real estate mogul (Tim Robbins).

As they often do in Leonard’s stories, complications ensue, and ransoming Mickey becomes difficult when her husband is more interested in spending time with his mistress (Isla Fisher) in the Bahamas than in paying to get his wife back. Life of Crime is a bit slow-moving at first, but it gets more entertaining as plans go further and further awry and the characters’ true emotions start to emerge. Writer-director Daniel Schechter is no Quentin Tarantino, but he evokes the time period with subtle flourishes and gets strong performances from his entire cast, especially Fisher as a woman much savvier than she first appears to be. Life of Crime isn’t spectacular or groundbreaking, but it does Leonard’s lean prose justice.

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