Life Of Crime Is Anything But The Standard Crime Drama

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Hyde Park Entertainment/Image Nation/Starstream Entertainment/Abbolita Productions/The Gotham Group

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Hyde Park Entertainment/Image Nation/Starstream Entertainment/Abbolita Productions/The Gotham Group

Lionsgate’s new drama Life Of Crime is an interesting movie.  The movie, which is based on author Elmore Leonard’s book The Switch is the polar opposite of all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes being churned out by Hollywood’s ‘Power Five” studios today.  It stands out completely from everything else on theaters and in the realm of home entertainment primarily because of its story.  The story centers on the kidnapping of a woman that is married to a rather unpleasant man by two ex-cons, one of which just got out of jail.  That aspect is discussed in the movie’s bonus features.  So it will be touched on later.  The story though, is rather interesting in that it doesn’t necessarily turn out the way that audiences might think.  In fact it actually turns the classic crime story a bit on its ear as audiences will see.  Another reason that the movie works as well as it does is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast’s acting really serves to highlight the character development that takes place over the course of the movie’s near two-hour run time.  Last but not least of note in this recent release is the movie’s bonus material.  The behind-the-scenes featurette and the discussion on how the movie came to be adapted from Leonard’s book both shed their own light on the movie, making the whole viewing experience all the richer.  That isn’t to take away from the movie’s bonus commentary.  It serves its own purpose in the grand scheme of things, too.  The end result is a movie that while it definitely walks off the beaten path is well worth the watch if only once.

Life of Crime is a welcome respite from all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes currently being churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five” studios.  The central reason for this is its script.  While adapted from author Elmore Leonard’s book The Switch, it stays true to the source material, as audiences will learn in watching the movie’s bonus material.  The story centers on the kidnapping of well-to-do wife Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston).  Mickey is kidnapped by two ex-cons named Louis (John Hawkes—American Gangster, The Sessions, Lincoln) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey a.k.a. Mos Def—The Italian Job, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, 16 Blocks).  The pair originally sets out to kidnap her and extort $1 million from her husband Frank (Tim Robbins—The Shawshank Redemption, The Hudsucker Proxy, Mystic River).  There’s just one problem.  He is getting ready to file for divorce unbeknownst to both her and her captors.  As things progress, a friendship of sorts forms between Mickey and Louis.  On the other end, Ordell ends up with Frank’s mistress Melanie (Isla Fisher—Now You See Me, Rango, Wedding Crashers).  Considering all of this, one would think that the movie is a comedy.  But that isn’t the case.  Writer/Director Daniel Schecter took the story in a more dramatic direction, again staying true to the source material.  The only way that this is a bad thing is the story’s pacing.  It does tend to drag somewhat as the story progresses.  But it is still a story worth at least one watch despite this.

The story on which Life of Crime is centered is an important reason that audiences should give this movie at least one watch.  Again as Writer/Director Daniel Schecter notes in the movie’s bonus material, he wanted to stay true to the movie’s source material. That’s because, as he notes, he didn’t like all of the movies that changed the story in its adaptation from its source material.  The story itself would be nothing without a cast to carry out the story.  And the movie’s cast does quite the job of bringing the story to life.  Their interpretation of Schecter’s script makes up for the story’s issues with pacing.  Audiences will love the fact that Aniston’s Mickey is such a strong female lead.  This goes back to the fact that the story turns the typical crime drama genre on its ear.  Mickey isn’t afraid to stand up to her captors, which is what leads to her budding friendship with Louis.  Women especially will cheer as Mickey uses a lit cigarette to burn Richard (Mark Boone, Jr.) in his eye.  Her overall interactions with Louis and Ordell display so much character development throughout the story.  That mix of development and interaction will pull in audiences with ease and keep them engaged right to the end again despite the story’s pacing issue.  It’s one more way in which Life of Crime stands out from all of the other major blockbuster prequels, sequels, and remakes currently out there and that are on the way.  It still is not the last factor that makes the movie work, either.  The last factor that makes Life of Crime work as well as it does is the movie’s bonus material.

The last factor involved in Life of Crime’s home release is the bonus material included in the movie’s Blu-ray/Digital HD release.  The bonus behind-the-scenes featurette itself offers quite a bit of insight into the movie.  That insight includes the thoughts on the movie’s source material from both the cast and director.  Aniston also has the chance to discuss her character’s portrayal to some length in the behind-the-scenes featurette.  The companion featurette entitled “Envisioning The Big Picture: Shooting Crime” allows Schecter to discuss his reasoning for staying as close as possible to Leonard’s original book in adapting it and the surprise that Leonard actually liked Schecter’s script for his adaptation.  There is much more discussed in both features.  And audiences will find in taking in the rest of those discussions, they add even more interest to Life of Crime in whole.  The same can be said of the movie’s bonus commentary from Schecter and actor Will Forte (Saturday Night Live) who plays a slightly overbearing man trying to win over Mickey throughout the movie.  The end result of all of these discussions is a viewing experience that makes Life of Crime even more a story worth at least one watch.

Whether it be for the story, the acting on the part of the cast or the movie’s companion bonus material, every one of these factors plays an integral role in the overall success and enjoyment of Life of Crime.  All three factors together make it an unsuspecting and rather interesting work worth at least one watch and a potential candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of this year’s best new independent movies.  Life of Crime is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Lionsgate’s online store at  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:



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Endeavour Just As Impressive As Its Forerunners

Courtesy:  PBS/itv

Courtesy: PBS/itv

PBS has proven time and again throughout 2013 why it is such an important addition to any family’s viewing schedule each day.  The network offers so much enjoyable programming for viewers of every age.  That includes its imports of itv’s recently ended series, Inspector Lewis and its new replacement, EndeavourEndeavour brings itv’s whole story started with its hit Inspector Morse series full circle as it brings viewers the story of how the famed detective got his start.  Television today is overly rife with crime dramas across the Big 4 and even across the cable spectrum.  That raises the question of what makes Endeavour stand out.  Endeavour stands out first and foremost because of its writing.  Tied directly in to the show’s writing is the overall lack of overt sex and violence.  In connection to both of the aforementioned factors of the show’s success is the acting on the part of the cast.  All three of these factors together make Endeavour stand out among the endless masses of crime dramas that currently pollute American television.

Writing is everything in any movie and television show.  Far too few people pay attention to writing as the source of a movie or television show’s success or failure.  In the case of itv’s Endeavour, the writing behind the show’s first five episodes is an example of writing done right for a crime drama.  Much as was the case with the two series the preceded this prequel to the Inspector Morse series, the writing behind this show will keep any viewer guessing all the way to each episode’s end.  There are just enough twists, turns, and red herrings to keep viewers engaged despite the roughly ninety-minute run time of each episode.  The crimes in each episode aren’t all that viewers will appreciate from this new series.  One of best examples of those twists and turns is the episode, “Fugue.”  Anyone that remembers the 1999 movie, The Bone Collector or the movie that inspired it, 1935’s The Raven (which itself was remade in 2012 with John Cusack in the starring role) will see the obvious influence of both movies in this episode.  It’s definitely one of the best episodes from Series One.

The writing behind the episodes’ primary plots will be highly appreciated by anyone that appreciates a true mystery.  There is another aspect of the writing that audiences will appreciate in the secondary plot that runs through Series One.  That secondary plot involves the bond that forms between the young Endeavour Morse and his partner of sorts, Fred Thursday.  The bond between the pair grows throughout the course of each episode.  It grows to the point that Thursday becomes a surrogate father of sorts, considering what eventually becomes of Morse’s own father.  This plays into the first series/season’s finale.  There is in fact one point in which Thursday does something that makes him more of a father figure to Morse than ever before.  It is a short moment.  But it is also a very moving moment for any viewer.  It’s one more element of the expert writing that makes Series One a wonderful introduction to what will hopefully be another long running series from itv.

The solid writing does so much to make Endeavour’s first series an impressive reintroduction to the world of Inspector Morse.  Tied directly into the show’s writing is the general lack of sex and violence throughout the first series.  This is a standard established throughout both Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis.  By comparison, the amount of sex and violence that permeates American crime dramas is stunning.  Yes, the crime scenes sometimes can be a tiny bit unsettling.  But that unsettled feeling of said crime scenes is extremely minimal at best again by comparison.  And those people within the police department aren’t big, muscle bound men and women with….shall we say overt amounts of cleavage showing.  Both men and women are dressed in full dress.  The men wear suits.  The women’s attire is just as classy.  It’s a nice change from what viewers are exposed to on the Law & Orders and CSIs and others across American television.  Keeping that in mind, it’s without a doubt, one more positive that audiences will appreciate from Endeavour: Series One.

The writing and general content included in Endeavour: Series One play very prominent roles in the show’s success.  One would be remiss to ignore what is perhaps one of the most important factors of all: the cast’s acting.  The acting of both Shaun Evans (who plays the young Inspector Morse) and Roger Allam (his mentor Fred Thursday) is just as solid as the writing itself.  The pair has such incredible on-screen chemistry. Throughout each episode, the two work so well together, whether in investigating crimes or building their personal friendship.  On another level, audiences will be just as appreciative of the acting on the part of Jack Laskey in the role of DS Peter Jakes.  Jakes is wonderfully despicable opposite Evans as Morse’s antagonist.  Jacks really makes audiences hate him.  That is the sign of top notch acting.  And along with Evans and Allam, his acting and theirs becomes the icing on the cake that is an excellent new crime drama from itv.  It is an equally wonderful addition to PBS’ lineup for audiences that have gotten so accustomed to the high standard set by this show’s forerunners.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray and can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at  More information on this show and others from PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery programming is available online at and

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Perry, Fox Carry Patterson’s Cross

Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Actor/producer/director Tyler Perry is known largely for his widely popular movies focusing on the over the top Madea.  So it goes without saying that when he was announced to take over the role of Alex Cross from veteran actor Morgan Freeman, audiences both of his work and that of author James Patterson were left quite in shock to say the least.  Any time that an actor or actress takes a leap outside of his or her comfort zone, it also pulls said actor/actress’ fans out of their comfort zones.  And that apparently is what happened in the case of his take in the new action flick bearing the character’s name.

Perry’s audiences and critics alike were pulled out of their comfort zone with Alex Cross because all involved became so accustomed to seeing Perry in dramadies, not action flicks.  So much so that they refused to see Perry’s potential in this movie.  Director Rob Cohen even discusses this in the Director’s Commentary of the movie’s new home release on DVD and Blu-ray.  It’s just one of many discussions that he raises which will make for more appreciation for this movie among audiences.  The reality of Alex Cross is that while the story may be somewhat outrageous, it’s no more outrageous than the criminal profilers in CBS’ Criminal Minds going out on “missions” to stop deranged killers, which is exactly what co-star Matthew Fox (ABC’s Lost) plays here.  Fox expertly plays the absolutely deranged sociopathic killer Picasso who is hell bent on taking down Cross for past events.  Much like Perry, his performance is a powerhouse.  He is one of those villains that is totally believable.  He is one of those rare villains that audiences love to hate, and by whom they are disturbed.  That means that Fox did his job and did it well.  So to that extent, Fox and Perry together really are what make the story work.

Keeping in mind why Picasso is after Cross, one can’t help but make at least a slight comparison to fellow actor Denzel Washington’s 1999 crime drama, The Bone Collector.  The difference between the two is that this crime drama is far better and moves much faster.  What Perry has done here for all intents and purposes is harnessed both Washington and fellow action star Will Smith and proven to be even better than both.  Audiences need only allow themselves to suspend their disbelief and they too will realize Perry’s talents as an action star.

It goes without saying that a number of factors were changed in this adaptation of its namesake book by author James Patterson.  But few movies ever adapted from books have ever stayed one hundred percent true to their origins.  Just look at the movies in the Die Hard franchise.  They are prime examples of that.   Audiences need to keep this in mind as well in order to maintain their suspension of disbelief.  Allowing that to happen allows audiences to simply enjoy the fast paced action that starts right off the bat and barely lets up right to the movie’s final confrontation.  And if doing that doesn’t work, then perhaps watching the bonus making of featurette in the brand new DVD and Blu-ray release of the movie will finally convince people to let go of their own expectations.  The feature, “The Psychologist and the Butcher: Adapting & Filming Alex Cross” features interviews with James Patterson himself in which he in no uncertain terms lets audiences know that he accepts the big screen adaptation of Cross.  It’s nice to see an author giving his personal stamp of approval on an adaptation of one of his books.  And hopefully both Patterson’s readers and Perry’s fans will come together after watching this new home release and give the movie the appreciation which it deserves.  It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online and is worth at least one watch by any true action movie fan.

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