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Thick as Thieves

Low Spark Films

Emily the Criminal (2022)

The U.S. economy looks all set to claim another scalp in "Emily the Criminal," when it forces Emily (Aubrey Plaza) to turn to crime as a way to unblock her cash flow crisis. Already hassled and disrespected in the low-waged catering trade, her interviews for other employment are tripped up by a prior conviction for aggravated assault: hide it and the interview ends badly, own up and there's hardly an interview at all. More profitable, and precarious, opportunities come her way via a syndicate of well organized Middle Eastern gentleman and their fake-credit-card operation. Suitably trained, Emily becomes expert at the art of buying something expensive on a dodgy card and getting out before the alarms go off.

The tone of a film with this plot would vary depending on who plays the lead. Make Emily either a sheltered wallflower or a bruised casualty of the justice system with a trembler fuse, and you would get two different end results. This one, directed by John Patton Ford and outfitted as a drama with occasional tension, uses Ms. Plaza in serious rather than comedy mode and aims for a middle path. Clearly nearing the end of her tether with regular law-abiding life, Emily has Ms. Plaza's natural air of weighing up the character of everyone she looks at, plus a more melancholy burden of just being one of life's unlucky ones. The plot has Emily strike up a romance with the leader of the credit card gang, Youcef (Theo Rossi), and taking his side in a violent dispute with his family, which eventually means Emily fending off her adversaries with defensive weapons. Ms. Plaza's way with a sarcastic response in multiple comedy films has left many a recipient looking bruised, and the more dramatic goals of this one mean she gets to apply the stun gun to gentlemen's fleshy parts for real.


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