- Title: Criminal
- IMDb: link
The premise behind screenwriters Douglas Cook and David Weisberg‘s Criminal is fairly ridiculous, even for B-movie action flick. Sadly, it’s not nearly as entertaining as the pair’s 20 year-old collaboration – The Rock. Set in present day, the death of Agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds), who alone has vital information to keep backdoor access into the missile command of the United States out of the hands of a terrorist (Jordi Mollà), causes the CIA to attempt an experimental procedure to implant Pope’s memories into a brain-damaged convict named Jericho (Kevin Costner).
Costner is an interesting choice for a remorseless cold-blooded killer forced to deal with unexpected feelings for a wife (Gal Gadot) and child (Lara Decaro) who are not his own and a mission he never signed-up for. His casting looks to be a huge misstep in the early scenes before Jericho’s operation, but the more conflicted the character becomes over the course of the film Costner’s performance begins to become one of the movie’s biggest strengths.
Even if you can buy the premise, the movie isn’t without its problems. Director Ariel Vromen assembles a better-than-average cast for this kind of film but the script often gets away from him. There’s simply too much going on, and far too much of it isn’t centered on Jericho. A more streamlined story could have done wonders for the film. The complicated nature of the missing hacker (Michael Pitt), his relationship to Pope, the terrorist, and the Russians, the simplistic CIA team (led by Gary Oldman) often blundering their way through the script, the doctor (Tommy Lee Jones) who performs the miracle operation, and various other pieces all get in the way of what should be a rather straightforward story.
First, following the operation, the movie should stay focued on Jericho and not get lost down this winding dead-end alleys. Second, the super-hack into the U.S. Military need never be explained. Much like the half-remembered bag of cash Jericho is hunting, the entire subplot isn’t that important. We don’t need details on the threat, lengthy exposition, or scenes of our villain in his lair. A more seasoned director would recognize all of this is nothing more than a MacGuffin to keep Jericho moving forward long enough to come to appreciate the kind of life he never knew.
Criminal is less than the sum of its parts. The movie is simply overstuffed with plot that drags it to a halt every time it takes focus off of a main character who the film’s flimsy plot is asking quite a lot of the audience to buy into. Although I enjoyed aspects of the movie, particularly Costner’s mix of brutality and emotional struggle, I can’t bring myself to recommend a movie as flawed as Criminal. Costner sells the conflicted protagonist, and Gal Gadot headlines a strong supporting cast, but in the end it’s the story that ultimately neither the director nor his cast can make work. Too serious to laugh at itself and not stylized enough to overcome its weaknesses (two things that make the equally ridiculous Face/Off more tolerable) Criminal is never as interesting at the idea at the heart of the film it struggles to fully embrace for far too long of its 113-minute running time.