Emily the Criminal Movie Discussion and Review

Emily the Criminal Movie Discussion and Review
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Emily the Criminal Movie Discussion and Review. If you wrote a movie in a Philosophy 300 level course that was required to discuss moral adjacent topics in modern society, you could possibly end up with the movie, Emily the Criminal. It is a profound discussion of laws, customs, ethics, mores (I just learned that the singular of mores is mōs?? How have I not been made aware of this English detail!??!), and practices but will probably pass as like maybe a thriller? But no, this is a Philosophy primer with regard to American Clepto-Pecadilloes… or something.

Massive spoilers abound from here on out… don’t continue on if you haven’t seen this great little indie movie yet.

Emily the Criminal Movie Discussion and Review

Meet Emily. Emily aspires for more. Hell, Emily would just like to break even. I mean, she’s got $70,000 in student debt – so she’s got that going for her. And even worse, somewhere deep inside the rabbit hole that is Emily, she has a felony conviction that is preventing her from getting hired in the medical field. We get a clear picture of just how deep the hole she is in when as we are subjected to the tail end of an interview. Emily gets caught in a lie, confronted, she attempts to wiggle out of it, she only makes the situation infinitely worse. The hiring manager drops a massive file on his desk that apparently details her moral failings – her sin. Realizing she’s cooked, she snags the file and walks away.

Cut to her normal day job. Emily is an independent contractor who delivers food for a catering company to business events. But when another co-worker tells her about a shopper service that is guaranteed to make her a quick $200, she is all about it. Anyone getting the sense that Emily would chew off her own leg if it was caught in a trap? Yeah, me too. As, it turns out, the “service” is actually a credit card fraud ring. (Side note, in my real life job, I compete with guys attempting to do this sort of thing all the time.)

Youcef, one of the leaders of the ring, tells her to purchase a TV using bogus ID and a bogus credit card that they make for her on the spot. The TV heist goes extraordinarily well, and after, Youcef jokes that her next job? Will be killing someone. But instead, the next day, they ask her to purchase a car… the trick? From the moment they scan the card, she has eight minutes to get out of there before they know it’s a scam. But it goes all kinds of pear-shaped when the seller figures out that its a scam. (Think about this for 2 seconds and you know that this is impossible. I bought a car from a dealer recently, and we were in there for HOURS. Four hours? Title. Insurance. Financing. Warranties. Detailing. Like… nothing happens in a car purchase in 8 minutes. NOTHING. But anyway. But it helps that this wasn’t an actual dealer, and these guys are all kinds of shady themselves I suppose.) Push comes to literal shove, and throw in a bit of mace to boot, and Emily is free and clear with the car, and a horribly bloody nose.

Youcef obviously feels badly with what he’s done to her and helps Emily with her bloody nose and shows her how to ice it. It’s obvious that the pair have a connection of some sort. Emily, mid-convalescence, shares that she’d like to go to South America if she can figure out how to pay off her debt. And Youcef tells Emily that he wants to purchase a rental property with all the money that he’s been making from his heist-ring. As a result, Youcef shows Emily how to make fake credit cards. And he tells her to never mess with ATMs, to never steal from the same merchant in a week, and not to sell the items she purchases from her house. Then Youcef tells her that if she makes less than $5k, that she should keep the credit card machine and the taser he gave her. But if she makes more?? Well, then he’ll help her takes things further.

Insert – EMILY IS WOORRRRKINNNNG MONTAGE – and we see her outplay a couple of guys that try to rip her off. They realize she could supply them with cheap stuff they could resell, and they are won over. In a harrowing exchange, while dog-sitting for her friend, a buyer for some of the stolen things she’s scored, follows Emily and then takes her earnings AND the dog. (Things just got real – the dog?? hahah.) Emily though, tases the man and gets the money and the dog back. And she makes it abundantly clear to the woman who is with the unconscious man that she now knows where they live… “understand what I’m saying?” Emily? Emily is becoming a beast. A really driven, completely inhuman, beast. This is a fact.

Things progress between Youcef and Emily romantically after Emily invites him to a party with her friend. There, Liz finds out that there is an opening at her friend’s ad agency and that she’s gotten an interview. Things go rapidly downhill when the job with the agency turns out to be an unpaid internship. Then later, when at a dinner with Youcef’s family, Youcef’s brother Khalil lets him know that Emily was busted hitting the same store twice in a week, and that the store put security footage of her online. And because of that, Youcef cuts Khalil out of his stolen goods ring. But when Youcef needs to get a sudden down payment on his rental property dream, which, he doesn’t have, he decided he needs to steal the money from the fraud ring itself. Ouroboros anyone?

When Youcef and Emily arrive at the crime syndicate headquarters (I don’t know what to call it – you tell me!), they see that Khalil has already beaten them to it. Not only that, he’s already emptied the shared bank account. HOW. D-A-R-E HE?!?!? Wait. That’s what they were about to do… nmm, I forgot. Emily, being the beast that she is, tells Youcef they need to find Khalil at his brother’s safe-house, and ambush him. Which they do. Emily impersonates a food delivery person (is it impersonating, when you are one?) and stuns the guy that comes to the door. They put him in the trunk of his car, park it down the street, and send a text on his behalf saying he’d just been carjacked. Then, guys leave to go help him. See? Clever.

As they work their way through the house, ultimately Khalil attacks Youcef and Youcef is hurt badly. Like, really badly. But Emily, the beast that she is, is able to get Khalil to tell her where the money is through the use of a box cutter applied to his neck, after stabbing him multiple times in his side. When Emily gets Youcef to the car though, the cops are coming, and she’s lost the keys somewhere along the way. So she leaves Youcef behind, takes the cash… and heads to South America. There, we see her enjoying the city, drawing, and swimming among the waves.

“You work. You work down to the bone. That’s how my grandmother said it. It’s never enough, right?”

Then, as the movie is obviously ending – Emily is surrounded by a group of people. And she’s explaining to them, in Spanish, that what she is asking them to do is illegal, but that they will be paid $200 for their work. That if they had any moral qualms about the job, that they should leave now. No one objects, and with that, the movie ends.

What Just Happened Emily the Criminal

First blush – surface level – what did we just watch? It’s a movie about the injustices of modern society, right? At the start, we learn that Emily is a really hardworking individual. She is doing her best, and yet she’s made a number of significant mistakes in her life. But should we count those mistakes against her? Shouldn’t we give her another chance? You know, like, maybe Biden’s recent school loan forgiveness executive order? No, I’m not getting political here, just asking the question. When do we allow resets? When do we wipe the slate clean?

Layer 2? – a step beyond – we learn that, because of society’s boot on Emily’s neck, she turns to any sort of quick cash schemes that she can get her hands on. And from schemes, she leaps into full-blown robbery, fencing stolen materials, and racketeering. So, who are we rooting for here? Are we rooting for her to steal enough to squeak by, and turn the corner on her life? Are we hoping she steals it all, topples society and pulls a Robin Hood or something?

2nd Chance <————————> Upheaval

The movie could take a turn in two different directions. We could, at first blush, extrapolate that school loans are crushing… or that the credit industry has too short a leash, and is allowed to roll over decent people at will. Maybe it’ll be a discussion on Enron and Government bailouts or something. Right? It could opine widely on how the little people get chucked for distance, while the rich and powerful get all the bailouts. It wouldn’t be a stretch to make that argument. But, beyond letting us know that Emily is a really hardworking (maybe too hardworking?) individual, that she has debts, and priors, we aren’t given much to go on this direction.

Instead, the movie goes all in on watching Emily go absolutely off the criminal deep end. She assists a criminal ring with their schemes, she steals a car, she begins stealing card numbers and merchandise, then fencing it. She falls in love with a criminal, and she stabs a man. And when given the chance to do one, really beautiful, non-selfish act, she abandons Youcef to the police, or to die. Why? Because nothing matters but the money.

Emily the Criminal Movie Discussion and Review - a detailed, deep dive, and explanation for the ending of the movie Emily the Criminal

The Ending of Emily the Criminal Explained

Emily wins. In the end, it’s shown that Emily is the winner in this movie. She has the money, the training, and the guts to continue on Youcef’s schemes. She has her life in South America – her very own definition of success. She’s won.

And yet, she hasn’t. She’s lost. Worse! She isn’t even aware she’s lost. You think I’m stretching? Nah. How could I possibly presume? Well, did you notice at the end, she’s completely alone? It’s a bit of a blunt instrument really. Not subtle at all. But it is an extraordinarily key detail. Basically, the movie is saying something to us viewers. It’s pointing out, that while we, as a society, feel crushed by the injustices of life (college debt, bailouts, predatory lending, etc., etc.) it isn’t a get out of jail card. We still need to be morally good… we still need to do the right thing. In spite of the injustices of life. In spite of the evils in this world. Why? Because Emily missed out on the one thing that matters. Maybe her one true love wasn’t Youcef. Fine, but it was someone. Anyone. She abandons her one friend, Liz, after she can’t milk it to get a job. She refuses to take her calls. She abandons Youcef in the one moment that he needs her the most. And ultimately, she is left alone. She has her dream – but it isn’t a dream come true if we are all alone in the end.

So, ultimately, the film is saying this – loudly and clearly: sure, you can have all the money in the world, you can struggle to the top of the heap, but if you abandon what you believe in, you’ve already lost all your dreams. Does that logically follow? I might not be obvious because it would appear that she has everything. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

What Did I Think of Emily the Criminal??

Oh, it was fantastic, thanks for asking. It was ambiguous, and realistic. The acting was really fantastic. Plaza as Emily was an inspired choice. The screenplay was really well done. It walked that straight and narrow between being way too sensational and being horrifically boring so perfectly. I was really fascinated with the finer points of the movie. And the ways in which Emily fought so hard to pull herself up by her bootstraps. It was really a great film. I enjoyed every minute.

Edited by: CY