Emily the Criminal

Aubrey Plaza delivers as an ex-con finding herself with a not so steady job.

In a recent tradition of artisan features like “Ingrid Goes West” and “Black Bear,” Aubrey Plaza provides us with another remarkable performance in “Emily the Criminal.” It’s yet another a crime drama about a former criminal finding herself in dangerous territories, but it’s also wise and provocative when writer/director John Patton Ford writes the former “Parks and Recreation” star with a strong sense.

I viewed this movie online during the Sundance Film Festival, and I was given time to think about my overall opinion of it. I also must look back at the actress’ movie career-how she was fun in “The To Do List,” how she was awful in “Dirty Grandpa,” and how independent features can transcend herself. “Emily the Criminal” is an impressive debut for Ford.

Plaza is Emily, a former artist from New Jersey, who was in prison for aggravate assault, and now, since she can’t get a steady job, she works in a kitchen in LA. But even that’s not enough to pay off her student loans. The most she can hope for is that her friend Liz (Megalyn Echikunwoke) can hook her up with the head of a design company (Gina Gershon).

Then, when she covers her co-worker Javier’s (Bernardo Badillo) shift, he gives her a number to text about a job that pays $200 an hour. Youcef (Theo Rossi) is her new boss. Her first job is to buy a TV with stolen information on it, and she’s given the stolen credit card and a fake I.D.

You know something’s up, but you still want to see how it pays off or if it pay off. Crime has its consequences, and seeing Plaza in dark territories, represents her distinctive connection in her artisan film resume.

The next job is worth $2,000. She has to pick up a car that was test driven yesterday, and once the card goes through, she only has 8 minutes to get out. She survives an attack by a man in that car business, and gets mad at Youcef for letting her take the beatings for him.

He becomes sympathetic to her situation, and gives her his machine that makes the credit cards. They become good friends and lovers, especially since he plans to buy a new home.

But with every crime game, there are always consequences. It involves payment, theft, and the fact that crime doesn’t pay. But there are also retaliations against the turmoil, and Emily knows how to handle them.

Other than some unnecessary lines, which seem arbitrary to me, “Emily the Criminal” is throughly entertaining with how Plaza is well-picked to play a troubled girl getting herself in deeper trouble, and yet, she’s able to thrive on them. And she’s not the only one who carries the film. Rossi is transcending as her new boss who adapts from a boss to a friend to what could be or should be or might be. Whatever happens happens. And Gershon has a pulsating cameo when she deals with Emily’s attitude and cynicism. It all depends on how they each react to the scene that makes it so worth while.

John Patton Ford is a new filmmaker, and he gives “Emily the Criminal” with an aspect and tone that really explodes. If this movie gets some recognition, under the release of Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment, then he should keep pushing his talents to new limits. If you do recognize this film, then you need to give it a chance. You’ll grow to enjoy it. I know I did.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters This Friday

Categories: Crime, Drama, Thriller

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