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Life Of Crime (Blu-ray Review)

Life-Of-CrimeLife Of Crime interested me because it features characters from Jackie Brown.  On any given day, Jackie Brown is either my absolute favorite Quentin Tarantino film or at the very least Top 3.  Life Of Crime takes place with Ordell, Louis, Melanie and brief appearance from Ray in the year 1978.  This was a festival touring film that wound up playing in theaters finally around the end of August.  A side note, I’m just curious, but the film takes place in 1978 and features a scene with Will Forte trapped in a closet and he begins smashing his way out of the door just like Michael Myers did in the original Halloween.  I’m wondering if this was intentional, as Forte strangely knocks the pieces of the door out in the same manner that Michael did even.  Oh well, the Halloween season is upon us, so I thought I’d take note of that.

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Film 

Based on the book The Switch by Elmore Leonard, Life Of Crime (Name changed possibly because Jennifer Aniston was in a movie already called The Switch?) follows the exploits of Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara as they kidnap a wealthy socialite hoping her husband pays up.  Little do they know, not only does her husband refuse to pay, he’s already filed for divorce and run off with his new floozie Melanie.  Ordell and Louis must quickly figure out a way to get their scheme to work before this whole thing goes all for nothing.

Everything is on the table for Life Of Crime to achieve greatness.  The film is an adapted work of Elmore Leonard whose material lends itself to wonderful cinematic and television stories.  It features the return of characters in the Rum Punch/Jackie Brown realm.  This is the perfect cast to pull this sort of thing off.  The screenplay even seems to be more than solid.  I’m going to have to pin this on the director for this film being a bit too flat and playing everything in the movie much to safe and straight.

We have a set of colorful characters, yet everybody seems to be stuck in indie drama mode, afraid to go colorful and sort o liven up the film.  The dialogue and scenes in the script are calling for some wonderful moments of comedy, but they play things out so flat and dramatic instead of relishing in the hilarity that is begging to beak through.  Daniel Schechter wrote it, and he seems to understand it in his script, but his direction is afraid to go goofy.  Life Of Crime seems to be void of much of any energy that should be fueling this thing.

As I mentioned in my introduction, I’m a huge fan of Jackie Brown, so I was excited to revisit these characters.  And I think they have a good cast for all of this, but they seem to be on a leash.  Instead of the cartoonish and colorful antics that Tarantino gave them in his rendition, everybody here seems to mostly be in indie drama “try not to smile, please” mode.  Jennifer Aniston, who has plenty of experience with comedy is held in check here, where she could have run away with this thing had she bee allowed to let loose with Mickey Dawson.  Tim Robbins seems to be the only person in the film allowed to be goofy and really remind me of the Jackie Brown world.  Maybe since this film came before those events, these characters just hadn’t gained their sense of humor yet?  I dunno.

I’ve been pretty hard on this movie here and in all honesty its not terrible or anything.  Its just too tight nit and is showing us a ton of fun possibilities, yet not delving into any of it.  There are some humorous moments and scenes that show up, and that’s mainly because they have to because they are in the script.  Maybe I was expecting too much from this film, but really from where I see it, everything was set for it to be great except for the execution.  This will be a decent movie for people curious, but I immediately feel like I need to pop Jackie Brown in and see this material executed correctly.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail:   There’s a nice 70s filter popped onto the film here and its well represented.  Clothing textures are pretty impressive.  Mos Def’s hat features the use of many different fabrics and you can make out each one clearly.  Surfaces and such feature plenty of detail as well.  Its not a “wow’ing” transfer by any means, but it still impresses.

Depth: Depth is decent.  Most of the impressive moments come at Isla Fisher’s apartment in Florida.

Black Levels:  Blacks are a bit lighter, as fitting the look of the film.  Detail is evident among the blacks and it helps to accentuate sharpness.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are nice and full feeling.  They pop in that sort of intended 70s look the film is going for.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones have a little of that 70s tint to them, and are consistent throughout.  Closeups feature plenty of detail while there is a tad bit of smoothness as it zooms away.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  This is a very dialogue heavy film.  Foley effects are well captured, well rounded and feel very natural.  There’s a nice balance to the effects, scoring and vocals.  The mix is a little lower, but not by too much, but I did feel the need to turn it up a tad more than for normal tracks.

Low Frequency Extension: Enhances a few action moments and gunfire.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a very front loaded track.  The rear speakers provide some ambiance and score, but not much else.  There is some solid left/right interplay in the mix, but its a pretty safe and standard track.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is center focused, clean and clear.

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Extras 

Life Of Crime comes with a Digital Copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Dan Schechter and Actor Will Forte

Behind The Scenes Of Life Of Crime (HD, 10:06) – This is a very fluff friendly piece where actors and crew tell you stuff you already know about the film and pat each other on the back incessantly.

Envisioning The Big Picture: Shooting Crime (HD, 9:16) – The writer/director talks about his journey in adapting the book, meeting Elmore Leonard and shooting the film.  The actors hop in to praise the material and director as well.

Hit & Run: Choreographing Mayhem (HD, 6:30) – Daniel Schechter recounts storyboarding and shooting the action scenes in the film.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 10:20)

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Summary 

Life Of Crime is no Jackie Brown, that’s for sure.  Its a movie that seems to have everything in place to bust out but instead winds up holding back and being flat.  Lionsgate’s Blu-ray features a good audio and video presentation of the film.  The extras felt like a back patting marathon, but hidden in the PR love fest is some decent information on the production and Leonard’s book.  Elmore Leonard collectors can easily pop this in their collection, but I think most should check the film out first before buying it if the price is still up there and not down yet.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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