Emily the Criminal

Emily the Criminal is a crime thriller that marked the feature film debut of writer/director John Patton Ford. With this film, Ford showed that he has a bright future in the film industry.

Emily (Aubrey Plaza) was a down-on-her-luck woman, saddled with a mountain of student loan debt and a felony conviction in her past that kept her from being able to break out of the low paying jobs and pursue her dream of being an artist. In a desperate attempt to find a way out, Emily wound up involved in a credit card fraud ring, managed by middle man Youcef (Theo Rossi).

Struggling to get by, Emily and Youcef became closer and began to work in sync.

Emily the Criminal is a realistic look at what can happen to someone whose life is weighed down by debt and a mistake in the past. The film has plenty of dark elements to it, but it never goes off the rails. Emily is a complete person. You can see the path that took her into the criminal world and you could understand why she does what she does. Her life has hardened her and she is unafraid to take the steps necessary to get out from under it.

Aubrey Plaza is wonderful as the hard-nosed Emily. She infused Emily with a power and a bravery that, despite choices that are clearly bad, you have to respect. She is not the type of character that you would expect to react as she does, but it is perfectly believable when it happened.

The connection between Emily and Youcef seemed strong and that makes the ending all the more poignant.

Theo Rossi and Aubrey Plaza have a ton of chemistry and you can root for them, despite being people who are committing criminal acts. They are not necessarily your typical protagonists, but their desperation for survival in a world where the past has stacked obstacles against them allowed the characters to be relatable to an audience unfamiliar with the criminal lifestyle.

Emily the Criminal moves quickly and is full of character moments brought to life from a couple of strong lead performances. I was happy that I took the time to rent this off Vudu because it was a compelling story of a life that may be more common that expected.

4.2 stars

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