Further evidence of Aubrey Plaza’s acting chops is extraneous at this point, but Emily the Criminal (2022) delivers it yet again via a taut, suspenseful crime thriller. Plaza stars as Emily Benetto, a former art student struggling to make ends meet in LA at a food delivery gig, her career prospects derailed by a past felony conviction. To make a few bucks, she takes a one-shot gig as a “dummy shopper” for credit card fraudster Yusuf (Theo Rossi). Despite warning signs that she has dangerously crossed a line, she continues down a dark criminal path, feeding a subdued defiant streak as her financial situation grows more desperate–and a life of crime seems the only way out.
Emily the Criminal is a nerve-wracking, tense watch, its thriller beats steadily escalating through several suspenseful sequences. Plaza drives the action brilliantly as a low-key Walter White, assaying subtle steeliness under a meek surface. But Emily the Criminal also has focused points to make about the broken systems that create such desperation: the tilted playing field that favors employers, enabling them to disempower and exploit their workers. Rossi and Megalyn Echikunwoke provide excellent support, while Gina Gershon contributes nicely to a key, fiery scene. A riveting, tightly wound little thriller.