Legendary crime novelist Elmore Leonard — who died last year at the age of 87 — was always something of a mystery to Hollywood: Though his books were full of icy-cool characters, ingeniously detailed dialogue, and loopy capers, filmmakers couldn’t always figure out how to translate his work to the big screen; for every success, like Out of Sight and Get Shorty, there was an overstuffed, tone-deaf disappointment like Be Cool or Touch.
But this summer’s Life of Crime looks to be one of the most ambitious Leonard adaptations yet — and certainly one of the most star-packed. Based on the 1978 novel The Switch, it stars Jennifer Aniston (who was already in a very different movie called The Switch) as Mickey Dawson, the wife of a wealthy philanderer (Tim Robbins) who’s kidnapped by charismatic criminals Ordell Robbie (Yasiin Bey, better known as Mos Def) and Louis Gara (John Hawkes).
When the crooks try to collect a ransom for Mickey, they soon realize her husband would rather hang out with his mistress (played by Isla Fisher) than pay up for Mickey’s release. Soon, they’re all entangled in an increasingly complicated revenge plot, one that brings to mind the classic 1986 comedy Ruthless People (even though Leonard’s book predates that film).
Life of Crime, which earned Aniston strong reviews at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, also features at least one notable cinematic callback, as Bey and Hawkes play younger versions of the sleazoid schemers portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 comedy-drama Jackie Brown — one of the last great Leonard adaptations. We’ll see how Life of Crime compares when it's released in theaters and on demand on Aug. 29.