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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Emily the Criminal': A Taut and Gripping Crime Thriller Imbued With Timely Social Commentary


Movie poster for Emily the Criminal (2022)

Emily the Criminal (2022) is a taut crime thriller starring Aubrey Plaza as Emily Benetto, a Los Angeles-based artist struggling under the weight of overwhelming student debt. With the addition of a felony conviction on her record for physical assault, Emily is unable to qualify for proper employment opportunity—and is forced to scrape by as an independent contractor for a catering company.


One day a co-worker introduces Emily to an advantageous but illegal opportunity, leading to an open call for those interested in making $200. The meeting is run by Youcef (Theo Rossi), the organizer of a credit card fraud ring, who persuades Emily to undertake a trial run as a dummy shopper—the payoff quickly intoxicating her in the ways of high-stakes larceny. As her relationship with Youcef evolves and criminal activities escalate, Emily finds herself at a crossroads—weighing her opportunism with the everyday threat of physical violence and/or incarceration.


Written and directed by first-time filmmaker John Patton Ford, Emily the Criminal is a gripping thrill-ride, incredibly timely in this age of increasingly insurmountable indebtedness. Ford maximizes his limited budget impressively (with a major boost from director of photography Jeff Bierman), while Plaza wholly embodies the titular lawbreaker in every nuance and action—helping to deliver a spot-on conduit for social commentary.

 

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