Netflix Gritty Crime Mystery Thriller Shows One Choice Spiraling Wildly Out Of Control

By Charlene Badasie | Published

The 2022 crime thriller Emily the Criminal is streaming on Netflix. Directed and written by John Patton Ford, the film stars Aubrey Plaza as Emily Benetto. Struggling with student debt and facing job market barriers due to her criminal record, Emily becomes involved in credit card fraud that leads her into the Los Angeles criminal underworld.

Emily Turns To Credit Card Fraud To Make Quick Cash

Emily the Criminal begins with Emily delivering food as a freelance contractor for a catering company. But her life takes a turn when a co-worker introduces her to a seemingly lucrative “dummy shopper” service that pays $200 an hour. Emily soon realizes the service is a front for a credit card fraud ring and eventually meets Youcef (Theo Rossi), a key figure in the illicit operation.

Emily is tasked with making purchases using fake cards and IDs. Things go wrong when Emily, who is trying to scam a car dealership, is caught and assaulted by the owner. As Youcef tends to her wounds, Emily tells him she is an aspiring artist who dreams of living in South America. Emily is promoted to making fake credit cards and given a taser for protection.

In Too Deep

Emily is cautioned not to repeat scams at the same store or peddle stolen goods from her home. Their partnership faces a threat when Khalil (Jonathan Avigdori), Youcef’s cousin and partner, discovers their collaboration, which causes a rift in the family business. The stakes get higher in Emily the Criminal when the titular Emily’s home is robbed.

The rift in Youcef’s criminal empire widens as Khalil exposes Emily’s repeated hits on the same store. The fallout prompts Youcef to sever ties with Khalil, who retaliates. Facing imminent danger, Emily is forced to make a decision that will change her life forever.

Aubrey Plaza Earns Critical Acclaim

Emily the Criminal premiered at the 38th Sundance Film Festival in January 2022 before hitting theaters in August that same year. The film was praised for its screenplay and Plaza’s performance, earning positive reviews from critics. The movie, which also features Megalyn Echikunwoke and Gina Gershon in supporting roles, currently holds a 94 percent critics rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Audiences also enjoyed Emily the Criminal, as evidenced by the 79 percent Rotten Tomatoes score based on over 100 reviews. At the 38th Independent Spirit Awards, the movie received four nominations, including Best First Feature, with John Patton Ford winning the award for Best First Screenplay. The film performed relatively well at the box office, bringing in $2.2 million.

Student Debt Is A Serious Issue

Emily the Criminal was inspired by John Patton Ford’s personal experiences with student debt and employment in the restaurant industry. Upon reviewing the script, Aubrey Plaza not only agreed to play the lead role, she also signed on as a producer. The movie diverges from traditional dramas of bygone eras.

Stream Emily The Criminal On Netflix

Some critics noted that in a different time, the film might have unfolded as a romantic drama similar to Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, blending romance, criminal elements, and class disparities with moral and ethical dilemmas. However, Emily the Criminal tackles these elements in a straightforward manner without dwelling on the implication.