“Criminal” began its theatrical run across the country this past weekend.
CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is on the verge of making a deal with Jan Stroop (Michael Pitt), aka The Dutchman, who is a hacker that has developed what he refers to as The Wormhole. The Dutchman has the nuclear missile codes for the United States at his fingertips and is willing to hand them over for $10 million, a passport, and guaranteed safety. Stroop’s former employer, Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Molla) has an undying hunger for the destruction of all forms of government and sees Stroop’s Wormhole as a means to his diabolical plan.
Heimdahl gets to Pope first and kills him. Unfortunately, Pope is the only one who knows where Stroop is hiding. Pope also stashed Stroop’s money somewhere only he knows. This sends the CIA, led by Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman), into a frenzy. They turn to Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) and his memory implantation research that has never been used on humans. The perfect candidate for such a procedure is the hardened convict known as Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner). They implant everything that was Bill Pope into Jerico Stewart’s head, but Stewart’s criminal behavior becomes more unpredictable than expected.
Written by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg and directed by Ariel Vromen (“The Iceman”), “Criminal” is an action thriller that borrows a science fiction concept that has been used and overused time and time again: “Total Recall,” “Inception,” “Dark City,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” are a few examples. The film even has similarities to the Ryan Reynolds film nobody saw from last year called, “Self/Less” which saw an elderly and sickly Ben Kingsley having his consciousness injected into the young and vigorous vessel portrayed by Reynolds.
There are two reasons and two reasons alone that make “Criminal” somewhat worthwhile. If you had never seen Gal Gadot in anything before “Batman v Superman,” then this is a decent place to start. She is given much more time to show emotion and act in “Criminal.” Gadot shares a scene with Kevin Costner that is genuinely emotional for the short two minutes that it lasts.
The only other reason to see “Criminal” is for Kevin Costner’s likely unintentional but overly hilarious performance as Jerico Stewart. Costner decides to talk with this low gruff for the entire film to drill home the fact that Jerico is so cold that even his voice lacks any sort of life. Once you become accustomed to that, Jerico throws his outrageous behavior at you and you can’t help but laugh. He causes a car accident and seemingly checks on the victim before stealing his cigarette and punches said victim in the face, he angrily eats someone’s sandwich without paying for it after grunting and moaning in ecstasy, he beats three men with a water cooler and a car door before stealing a van, he punches another guy in the face for a latte after Jerico accidentally speaks French and the poor guy corrects Jerico when he says he’s speaking Spanish, and he loudly cuts in line at the library.
Jerico’s demeanor becomes more outlandish as the film progresses. He beats someone with a broken lamp, throws it down violently when he’s finished, and then gets in their face and screams, “NYEHHHHH!!” at the top of his lungs. He also smack talks a rear view mirror while driving by flipping it off and roots himself on after causing yet another car accident. It’s believable that Nicolas Cage was offered a role in this film since Costner seems to be channeling him here. On the other hand, it’s mind blowing to think that Nicolas Cage actually turned something down.
The rest of the film is more lifeless than Jerico Stewart is rumored to be. Tommy Lee Jones is only featured in “Criminal” to remind everyone how old he is. Gary Oldman plays a CIA agent who is always screwing up and makes the organization look foolish at every turn. Oldman also has a terrible temper as Quaker Wells. He yells for no reason other than the fact he’s impatient and resorts to heavily interrogating a man who just went through extreme brain surgery in an effort to get answers. He attacks Stewart’s water and holds his medicine hostage before kicking open the door and stomping away. The film has no idea how to use Scott Adkins. How are you going to feature a well-known martial artist in an action film and not use him for anything other than a few throw away lines of dialogue? With a name like Pete Greensleeves it’s not like anyone is going to take him seriously anyway.
The story also seems to ignore logical behavior of any kind. Nobody takes any sort of precautions when it comes to trusting a guy on death row with government secrets. The head of the CIA complains about this and yells at everyone else about how stupid it is yet lets it happen without doing anything about it other than yelling some more. This is a man who has never felt emotion and is experiencing it for the first time yet his biggest negotiation tactic is that he wants to go to the beach.
Besides Kevin Costner’s absurd antics, “Criminal” is nothing more than a forgettable thriller that consistently rolls itself into a tangled burrito of ungodly atrocities. If memory implants could replace the memories of bad films, being first in line to erase “Criminal” from existing would be something everyone would benefit from.