A refreshing character drama that is unafraid to be confrontational or abrasive, Emily the Criminal is ultimately quite revealing about how we culturally often become complacent to injustices or impediments that affect our collective growth. Emily The Criminal is a polemic film, one that isn't afraid to get messy as it pertains to justice and ethics. From one decision to the next, Emily's actions are not ethically acceptable on their face but what becomes apparent is she is merely reacting to the world around her, learning from what she sees as success and adopting those tactics for her means of survival. Simply put, she is reading and reacting to the dog-eat-dog nature of the world, where force, toughness, and conquest, whether among small-time criminals or corporate suits are ultimately idolized. If you look too closely there are aspects of this characterization and the story itself that don't quite congeal, and one could certainly argue aspects of this could be better developed, but I like how messy it is, almost being more penetrating due to a lack of all the context. The film has conviction in what it's doing and what we effectively witness is a transformation. Emily begins to believe that her failures - the trauma, and circumstance that have left her on the outside looking in - are due to her not being strong, not seizing the opportunity, and embracing the competitive dog-eat-dog mindset. To go full big-brain over here, Emily the Criminal could also be seen as a rather sly subtextual critique of modernity and the cutthroat nature of our world that since the 1970s has been sculpted and rearranged by finance in the name of globalization. The managerial class, which once aligned with their workers to serve the company now has a new master - bureaucratically finance. Labor fights for the scraps and even the educated face unnecessary impediments to climbing the hierarchy of power through predatory interest rates on student loans. The rules of the game are tilted, and legality is merely a precept of order and control within the global finance framework. This type of stripped-down thriller I can largely get behind. It is tense, uncomfortable, exhilarating, and ultimately appreciated by me due to its willingness to challenge the status quo and our collective complacency with certain injustices. Notions of acceptability and politeness itself are often sculpted by the powerful and we should remember that.
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