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Emily The Criminal Sundance 2022 Review: Aubrey Plaza Steals The Show in Sharp Heist Drama

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Are you a fan of Parks and Recreation? Yes, it’s better than the office. Remember April Ludgate? Aubrey Plaza has come a long way since and Emily The Criminal does a lot to put her range on full display.

Emily The Criminal is directed by John Patton Ford and stars Aubrey Plaza and Theo Rossi. This heist drama follows Emily (Plaza), a down on her luck young woman who becomes involved with a credit card scam that eventually pulls her into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles.

What Works

Aubrey Plaza is a standout in the film. She and Theo Rossi have a great dynamic, with sexual tension building throughout the course of the film and great synergy that leads to consequences later on. Plaza displays an impressive range — she is able to channel her natural cool, calm demeanor while also elevating her tone and delivery when necessary. We see her character begin as a day-to-day employee and slowly gain more hostility and paranoia as the film continues. She truly shines in edge-of-your-seat, high-intensity sequences, without stepping into “overacting” territory. With Plaza, she is able to deliver an edgier vibe than a lot of her previous work. Rossi also delivers, but this is Plaza’s film.

The movie has good pacing as well. The film is a nonstop thrill ride as you embark on these crimes with Emily (Plaza). The crimes become more and more dangerous and she slips down a rabbit hole that’s hard to emerge from. All of this while we still squeeze in scenes of her ordinary life from time to time. The story is tight and keeps you on the ride the entire time.

What Doesn’t Work

While Plaza, Rossi, the story, and pacing work well, unfortunately, the technical aspects of the film are generic. Score, cinematography, and action sequences are nothing we haven’t seen before and do nothing to raise the bar. While they don’t hurt the film, they don’t elevate it and take it to more unique levels. Take a movie like Speed or Atomic Blonde where the action feels fresh, Emily The Criminal fails to deliver on anything new, but Plaza and Rossi make it more than worth it.

Emily The Criminal: 8.5/10

Emily The Criminal premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 24.

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