By: Akram Shaban

Criminal is the kind of movie that would have been great had the direction, writing, and the general aspects of filmmaking been well executed. The only thing that allows you to endure the 1 hour 53 minute run time is the quality of the performances delivered from the group of seasoned actors. Ryan Reynolds is only briefly present and wears some really nice clothes. He also looks good with a beard. He’s only there to perpetuate the clunky plot. Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones are there because they want to collect some cash for their down payment on a fancy boat. Gal Gadot is too good for her role. The star is Kevin Costner who appears to have a lot of fun throughout this snooze-fest. I did hear some snoring in the proximity of my seat.

The plot had some great potential. There is a crazy righteous bad guy who thinks he’s the good guy. He wants to punish the evil imperialist Americans for their failure to be, like, not evil. Wait, he actually wants to punish the whole world because he abhors the concept of the nation-state. The more I write, the more in common I have with this villain. He thinks world governments have been corrupted. To be honest, I don’t remember what his motives were.

 

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Ryan Reynolds as Bill Pope in Criminal

 

Bill Pope (Reynolds) is a CIA agent who knows some crucial information about the plot. The CIA loses track of him as he was being tracked by the bad guys. This compels Quaker Wells, the CSI chief (Oldman), to start Commissioner Gordon-ing all over the place, and spew out all sorts of commands and orders. He wants agents around every corner, checkpoints set up, the perimeters searched, and every officer on the streets, NOW! I’m not sure if he was that hardcore in this movie, but that’s how I remember it.

The evil villain guy kills Mr. Pope and leaves his body to be conveniently found by the CIA. Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones’ Dr. Frank has made some breakthroughs in brain science. He figured out how to transfer memories and other experiences from one subject to another. So, Gary Oldman does what essentially amounts to kidnapping a death-row psychopath convict and has him essentially play the role of the guinea pig. His name is Jericho and is played by the best thing to ever happen to this film, Kevin Costner. After getting some simple facts about the psychology of a psychopath wrong, the film persuades us that Jericho is good to go for the transplant of memories.

The thing you will immediately notice as you watch this fantastic calamity is the poor script. When you have someone like Oldman say “that’s f***ed up” after an important moment, your body struggles to laugh and cringe simultaneously. However, this bad dialogue fits Costner’s Jericho the most. This is mostly because he has the kind of gritty, blunt, “I don’t give an eff” attitude that you can reasonably perceive as being in line with the words coming out his mouth. It’s funny when it should be, and also funny when it shouldn’t. So you’re treated with some unintentional comedy as well.

 

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Gary Oldman as Quaker Wells in Criminal

 

But the movie is not a comedy. It, in fact, tries too hard to be serious. But there are some simple aspects the needed to be more developed. Jones’ character was supposed to be the doctor who connected with the troubled Jericho. But too little time is spent with this concept. Jericho connects too easily. The doctor is supposed to struggle, attempt and fail to build some rapport with him. Even if that wasn’t the intended portrayal, it is the vibe I got from that portion of the story. Maybe it’s the Pope side of Jericho that tempers his anger. But for someone whose entire brain chemistry was altered against his will, I’d expect more hostility towards those who did that to him. Co-writer Samar Khan of Team The Film Lawyers had an even bigger issue with the pacing and plotting of the film, positively aghast at how ludicrously easy it was for Costner’s character to just connect with everybody in what felt like 2 minutes. By the way, that snoring mentioned above? He was just one of the few snoring nearby in our theatre not even halfway through the film.

There is, however, never enough of Gal Gadot in the movies she’s a part of. Her starring role in Wonder Woman is greatly anticipated as her abilities are underutilized. Nevertheless, she brought a decent performance as the devastated Jill Pope. Still, I do imagine her in more action-oriented roles, rather than dramatic ones.

The movie’s biggest flaw is that it fails to let you care about its characters. The ending scene was supposed to be touching and heartwarming. But the events leading up to it were just too underwhelming. Making matters worse, the main villain was a crappy cut-and-paste job that can’t be taken seriously by any fan of good cinema. Often, badly written villains are reduced to hostage-taking cowards, even when they’re intended to be more than that. I want to see a villain who practices the righteousness that he preaches, struggles when his actions contradict his philosophy and does not resort to kidnapping as a way to get what he wants, even at his most desperate moment.

Better luck next time, Ariel Vromen. Criminal receives a grade of C- (5.5/10).

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