DIRECTOR-SCREENWRITER: JOHN PATTON FORD
CAST: AUBREY PLAZA, THEO ROSSI
USA 2022. 94MIN
REVIEW by KATHLEEN BONDAR from LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2022 John Patton Ford’s debut film about a young artist in debt who embarks on a life of crime as a "dummy shopper" laundering fake credit cards for high end goods, warrants all the clichés for the caper genre - fast paced, action packed, tense thriller and so on. It also has a sassy female lead in the form of Aubrey Plaza as Emily (Best Sellers, Ingrid Goes West, Parks and Recreation).
What is also great about this crime movie is the insight into the gig economy to which so many creatives are reduced. Emily, done with low paid work is ready to throw in the towel. Patton Ford gives examples of how creatives are expected to work for nothing, aka “internship”, and be grateful for the opportunity, or subsidise their creativity by working in fast food chains.
As the director explains: "In a way many Americans might understand, I graduated from school with ninety-thousand dollars of debt. The housing crisis was still doing damage, and I ended up delivering food and struggling to pay my interest each month. Not the principle, just the interest. That’s when I had the idea to make a movie about a millennial who hits the breaking point and decides to make her own rules."
Indeed, when Emily chucks it all in and joins the laundering scene, it is unsurprising. She is sharp and brave and climbs the ladder of the criminal set pretty quickly.
In many ways, this is an uplifting angle, but Emily the Criminal resorts to high-end violence by the end which undermines many positives about the film. The relationship between Emily and Yousef (Theo Rossi: True Story, American Skin, Sons of Anarchy) a lead player in the laundering fraternity, turns from a gripping insight into a couple of outcasts trying to make something of their lives into a visual bloodbath when the couple take on the gang. This not only steers the film into an entirely different genre and rapidly speeds up the pace, it reduces Emily as a three-dimensional character into a two-dimensional figment of the director’s cinematic imagination. It’s as if the director is auditioning for Hollywood.