Criminal Emily is an above-average crime thriller with specific moments that stand out. Writer/director John Patton Ford brings a modern twist to the genre. Criminal Emily provides social commentary on the system that indebted countless people. It’s a film about second chances and what you’re ready to do with them.
“Emily the Criminal” tries to solve her debts
Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is out of luck and stuck in huge debt. She works in the restaurant business but wants to get a job that brings money. However, no employer will hire him after doing a background check. Emily begins to think that she will have to move back in with her family in order to save money.
One fateful day, one of Emily’s co-workers informs her of an opportunity to earn some extra cash. However, this forces him to get involved in an illegal scam. As a result, she is drawn into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles. She will soon discover that all bad choices have consequences.
Writer/director John Patton Ford explores generational change
Criminal Emily opens with an important job interview, though his previous convictions prevent him from getting the job. She’s not afraid to stand up to authority and explain the heavy burden of high student debt. Emily’s dead-end job is increasingly exhausting, but she’s determined to stay in Los Angeles if she can make it work.
Illegal scams start out simple enough, leading Emily to believe that she might keep doing this to earn the money she needs. However, they become more and more difficult. Emily does not back down from the challenge, as dangerous characters try to victimize her. However, she is deceptively resourceful and quickly turns things around. Ford’s script acknowledges that she crosses moral boundaries, but it still causes the audience to root for her.
Criminal Emily finds the main character developing a relationship with his crime mentor, Youcef (Theo Rossi). This further complicates the nature of the game, but Emily will still pursue the mission she signed up for. Other job opportunities arise, though she finds herself in a capitalist world that seems even more dangerous and uncomfortable than the criminal underworld. A clear generational change in work habits is visibly at work.
Aubrey Plaza breeds an otherwise slightly above average ‘Emily the Criminal’
Criminal Emily explores the always frustrating job market. The main character deals with employers taking advantage of her time, asking her to work for free, and cornering her about her past. Ford’s screenplay is so accessible in large part because it taps into the real world in a way that’s especially timely for so many people.
Plaza is the climax of the film. It’s a fascinating role for the actor, allowing her to play a part that audiences don’t usually see her in. However, she easily handles all the nuances of the character. Plaza brings both drama and humor to Emily, creating a multi-dimensional, fully realized character. That’s why audiences can’t seem to get enough of seeing her on the big screen.
There’s a lot to enjoy in Criminal Emily. Plaza’s performance and some of the biting shots certainly make for a great cinematic experience. However, it goes off the rails a bit in the third act in a direction that doesn’t fit the rest of the movie. Criminal Emily is all about new beginnings and taking risks, which Ford entertainingly accomplishes for its lead.
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