Life of Crime

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Life of Crime Movie Poster Image
Cool, funny Elmore Leonard crime tale has sex and language.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 94 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

All of the characters wind up on the wrong side of the law, and though the movie ends ambiguously, it looks like they'll be rewarded for their illegal efforts, rather than punished.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The movie is filled with criminals who eventually influence the few "good" characters to change sides. Only one character really pays for his crimes. One character is shown to be a white supremacist who collects Nazi propaganda.


A woman is kidnapped by two men; they're fairly gentle to her, all things considered. She cuts her foot on some broken glass, and some blood is shown. She's also tied up and fitted with a mask. A man is conked on the head and stashed in a closet. Characters argue and physically struggle with one another. A man is hit by a car. A character goes on a shooting rampage and faces off with a bunch of cops, who surround his house. He's shot and killed. A second woman is tied up.


In two quick scenes, a minor character is shown having sex with two different women; the women's breasts are shown in both shots. (These are "illustrations" for a conversation between two characters about which woman has the largest breasts in town.) One of the main characters is a married man having an affair; they're shown having sex, but there's no nudity. A female character sunbathes with her bikini unclipped, but her breasts aren't shown. A man cuts a peephole into a door so that he can watch a kidnapped woman.


Language is strong throughout, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink in a background way; no overindulgence.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Life of Crime is a crime comedy based on a classic Elmore Leonard novel. There's lots of language, including uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as some brief but strong sexual content. A couple of brief sex scenes include topless women, and one of the main characters is a married man who's cheating on his wife (there's a sex scene -- no nudity -- between him and his new lover). A woman is kidnapped, some blood is shown, and a man goes on a shooting spree, but violence generally isn't particularly intense. The characters definitely don't face any consequences for their crimes, and in some cases, good people are persuaded to turn bad. Teen fans of Quentin Tarantino may be interested in seeing this, since it has a connection to his film Jackie Brown, with some of the same characters. But it's recommended for mature viewers only.

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What's the story?

In 1978, ex-cons Ordell Robbie (Yasiin Bey, a.k.a. Mos Def) and Louis Gara (John Hawkes) cook up a plan to pull in some easy money by kidnapping aging trophy wife Mickey (Jennifer Aniston). Her husband, housing magnate Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins), has a secret, illegal account filled with over $1 million, and Ordell and Louis know all about it. Unfortunately, Frank doesn't want Mickey back. He's just filed for divorce and hopes to marry his new, younger lover, Melanie (Isla Fisher). Stymied by this new information and losing control of the situation, the kidnappers must come up with an even more brilliant plan.

Is it any good?

This film qualifies as enjoyable entertainment, or maybe a "B"-level movie, rather than a great movie. Based on a 1978 novel by Elmore Leonard and featuring some of the same characters from his 1992 novel Rum Punch -- which was the basis for Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown -- LIFE OF CRIME will no doubt suffer from comparisons. And it definitely does feel like the lesser of the two films, but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad film.

Writer/director Daniel Schechter brings a certain kind of economical edge to the production. It doesn't have any big set pieces or action scenes, but the general combination of the period clothes and sets, the great cast, and the colorful dialogue tends to make for a brisk, forward-moving energy. And the conversations that try to anticipate the next move conjure up a kind of low-key suspense that really works.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Life of Crime's violence. Even though the kidnappers are nice to their female victims, what does it mean to kidnap someone? Why is it always a violent crime?

  • Frank leaves his wife for a younger woman. Why would he do this? How is sex portrayed in the movie overall?

  • Which characters did you end up rooting for in this movie? Are they good people? What lessons do they learn? Why are they so likable? What would the real-life consequences be for their behavior/actions?

  • Why do you think filmmakers included the white supremacist character with the Nazi propaganda? How did this material affect you? Did he get what he deserved? Why or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy and thrills

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