Verdict: A flawed script and weak direction let down seasoned actors.
Criminal has been directed by Ariel Vromen, the man who directed The Iceman, the chilling story of a mob contract killer whose family are unaware of his profession till his arrest. The film starred Winona Ryder, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, James Franco and David Schwimmer – a cast that gets your hopes up regardless of what the premise of the film is. Criminal is no different. It stars Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones – a cast that is bound to make you sit up and take notice.
So, what do you find when you do notice this film? Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA operative and the only one who knows the location of a Dutchman, a hacker with the power to control all of US government and military systems. Bill is killed by anarchist businessman Heimdahl (Jordi Molla), while trying to torture the location of the Dutchman out of him. The CIA try to retrieve Bill’s memories by implanting them into the brain of a dangerous convict Jericho (Kevin Costner) with the help of a Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones). This first-time, human experiment meets with mixed success as Jericho only remembers fragments, and his already aggressive attitude is not helped by the CIA director’s (Gary Oldman) constant ranting. Meanwhile, Heimdahl is constantly one step ahead of the CIA and gets wind of their plan (never mind how) and tries to get Jericho. The rest of the film shows Jericho trying to get to the Dutchman while coming to terms with a new-found conscience and a wife (Gal Gadot) and daughter, and evading capture by both parties (never mind why).
The plot of Criminal is quite leaky and there are a number of occasions when you’ll be wondering what is going on, and where. Much of the action seems to be taking place in London, but there is no mention of the Secret Service and the Americans seem to be directing all of it. The scenes in which the back stories of the characters are shared are quite contrived. A lot of the cast in the film are top-notch performers but the script gives them no opportunity to bust out their acting chops. They all remain two-dimensional, from the raving CIA director with no regard for any individual to the drooping doctor whose sadness is never given reason. Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot are barely there and Kevin Costner has little to do but look angry and troubled- both of which he does well!
The action is the only thing in the film that looks authentic, though it tends to get unnecessarily gory. All in all, you’ll be left wondering why the director settled for such a weak script when he had such fantastic actors at hand. Guess it’s one of those things we’ll never know, like was Dr. Franks Jericho’s real father?
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
Criminal takes you back to the 90s – pre-Bourne times – when thrillers just had to have a Russian-sounding bad guy, a good but overbearing nation under threat and an unlikely hero out to redeem himself. And if that’s all you go looking for, you won’t come out disappointed.