(director/writer: John Patton Ford; cinematographer: Jeff Bierman; editor: Harrison Atkins; music: Nathan Halpern; cast: Aubrey Plaza (Emily), Theo Rossi (Youcef), Gina Gerson (Alice), Jonathan Avigordi (Khalil), Bernardo Badillo  (Javier), Kim Yarbrough (Secretary), Megalyn Echikunwoke (Liz); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Tyler Davidson, Aubrey Plaza, Drew Sykes:  Low Spark Films; 2022)


Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The debut film of John Patton Ford is an intense LA set thriller.

Emily ( Aubrey Plaza ) was an art student in college who left not graduating or paying back the $70,000 owed on he student loan. She yearned to have a career in the arts. But by leaving school early she was poorly prepared for a career and with a prior criminal record (some kind of altercation with an abusive ex) she couldn’t even land a low-paying second-tier administrative job. Needing money to survive, she gets work at a local catering service. The New Jersey native, now residing in Los Angeles, is so confused she thinks she might have to go back home a failure to live with her stepdad. Desperate to earn some fast money, one of her co-workers (Bernardo Badillo) offers her a chance to be part of a scam run by the seemingly cool young guy Youcef (Theo Rossi) and the Lebonese immigrant’s more ruthless crime boss big brother Kahil (Jonathan Avigordi). Emily’s part in the scheme is to use the stolen credit cards given her by the crime ring to purchase over the phone high-ticket items that will sell on the black market (with her earning $200 an hour). Youcef pushes her to do riskier things (like go on the streets and steal the credit cards) and make more money, when he observes how good a hustler she is.

We’re supposed to sympathize with Emily because she never wanted to be a criminal but couldn’t  figure out a way into resolving the financial mess she got into with the college loan and in the process made some bad choices, and thereby has so much anger that she changes into a badass.

Though the film is well-executed and the acting by Plaza is convincing, the scam Emily got into makes her a criminal and her crimes have victims, people she hurts by only caring about herself. I had a problem with the shallow way this crime partnership was portrayed and took no solace in its crowd-pleasing conclusion.

It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.