film reel image

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Saturday, December 17, 2022

Emily the Criminal 2022 * * 1/2 Stars


Emily the Criminal was released in the US in August of this year. It's frantic, dangerous, and confined, a project that reminded me of something that could've been helmed by the Safdie brothers (those crazy kids from Uncut Gems). "Criminal" also takes the subject of credit card swindling and makes it justifiable to the masses. Bad background check? Ah who cares, you're hired.

Anyhow, Emily the Criminal is kind of a less tweaked out, less violent version of "Gems" (mentioned in the last paragraph). This time the setting is LA and instead of Adam Sandler getting out of his acting comfort zone, we now have Aubrey Plaza getting out of hers. 

Plaza plays the Emily in Emily the Criminal and she ditches the comedic shtick while getting her groove on in the nerve-ending department. It's an amazing transformation as Aubrey acts with her whole body while giving the audience member some gangster screen presence. Yup, the weathered (yet sexy) Plaza is pretty much in every frame here. That's a good thing because when she is not, "Criminal" almost comes to a screeching halt. 

As something about a debt-ridden woman (Plaza as Emily Benetto) who gets involved in a credit card scam because she can't get a regular job as an artist, Emily the Criminal is a solidly paced thriller in which the camera is hard-pressed to keep up. Rookie director and close-up monger John Patton Ford can storyboard and his casting of Plaza is spot-on while still being against type. The problem I had with "Criminal" is something altogether different than the latter. It's cruxes are implausible and well, not likely.

The Benetto character breaks the law and although her life is somewhat threatened, she comes away unscathed. What no one you scammed is gonna come back and confront you? What no one is gonna identify you and arrest you a couple of days later? Head-scratching. Then there's the notion of what Emily Benetto becomes towards the end of the film (spoiler). She starts off as the antihero protagonist only to go virtual dark side. I mean it just doesn't seem credible what with everything that happened prior to the last act. "Criminally" overrated. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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