Emily The Criminal Review – Sharp, A Pulsating Thriller

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Emily, The Criminal, from Roadside Attractions, presents a contemporary Los Angeles thriller, when an unsuspecting cash strapped college graduate, unable to find work is hired as a dummy shopper and begins to score big money quick.

The film begins with story that is unbelievably common, a college educated artist, Emily, played by Audrey Plaza, unable to find employment in her career, works for a food delivery service. Strapped with student loan debt and a DUI on her record she is routinely rejected at job interviews and the stress as we see is getting to her.


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She happens to run into Javier, played by Bernardo Badillo, a friend from the job who asks her if she could take her shift. Once she agrees he says he help her out with a deal and texts her a number of a guy that promises $2000 for one hour of work.

Once the initial contact is made, the intrigue of fast, easy money as a "Dummy Shopper" is a little hard to pass up, so she follows through on every action step. We find out the two men, Youcef, played by Theo Rossi, and Khalil, played by Jonathan Avigdori, are running a credit card fraud ring.

Armed with a fake ID and credit card she walks into the store and buys the flat screen as instructed. She is paid, and they ask her if she wants to score more. Of course, she is intrigued and with little income she agrees.


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This time it is a bit more intense, as she is buying an automobile. Armed with a fake cashier's check, fake credit card, and ID, she is told she has eight minutes to secure the deal and leave the office as it only takes eight minutes to verify the funds. The owner asks her to fill out paperwork, which begins to eat at the time, finally with seconds to spare she walks to the car with the owner's son, get the keys, starts the car, and the son is telephoned. He politely asks her to exits the car.

At this point, the audience is left to wonder, we understand if she is caught she will go to prison. The man reaches into the car and tries to pull her from the car and she takes off. He follows in a chase. Suddenly stopped by traffic he gets out and hits her the face and she sprays him with mace and finally she reaches the business where Youcef and Khalil are waiting.

Youcef drives her home and explains a bit more about what they do, and as she is a quick thinker and able to handle herself, he can help her set up her own crew. She, still bruised and scared, explains she'll have to think about it.

She meets up with her best friend from college, Liz, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke, who did score the big job at an LA advertising agency that she is thinking of moving back to jersey. Liz explains she will have none of it and after she returns from a photo shoot in Portugal will definitely secure an interview for her at the agency.


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Finally, as Emily is back at food service, her supervisor cuts her hours. So, circumstances, being what they are, force her to make a decision. She meets with Youcef and he set her up with all the business tools she will need, a list of credit card numbers, a machine to make the cards, and two very important rules, never let anyone come to your home and never hit the same store twice in one week.

This sets up the final act of the film which we see Emily becoming more involved with the illicit black market capitalism trade, able to handle the low life's and thieves, stands her ground against the menacing attempts to drive down her profits and finally, along with Youcef, pulls a scam that nets the big score.

Emily The Criminal, nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards including Best First Screenplay, Best First Feature, Best Lead Performance and Best Supporting Performance, is a riveting modern thriller that highlights harsh truths of contemporary society.

While not explicitly stated, the film it also touches on the modern workforce, a glut in the market allows employers to demand free labor, labeled as internships; the racial divide as the white main character is unable to find work and her African American best friend scored the big job. Subtly the writer weaves these unspoken truisms throughout the film, as life imitates art.

Filmed throughout Los Angeles, Director John Ford Patton is also nominated for an Director's Guild Award for Best First Feature. For anyone who has experienced the low before the LA high life, the film quickly established that stark differences in realities.

Streaming on Netflix, Emily the Criminal is a must see.


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Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 97minutes.

Director: John Patton Ford.

Producer: Tyler Davidson, Aubrey Plaza, Drew Sykes.

Writer: John Patton Ford.

Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Bernardo Badillo, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Jonathan Avigdori.

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