With star power like Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman and Ryan Reynolds, it’s hard to create a dud. But somehow, Criminal (opening today) manages to be just that, despite a lot of promise, several exciting action scenes and some good performances.
It takes no time at all to begin, as we are instantly thrust into an intense chase sequence. A federal agent (Ryan Reynolds) calls his wife (Gal Gadot, better known nowadays as Wonder Woman), and then is quickly on the escape when a bunch of baddies start chasing him. Surprisingly, he is caught by them and (spoiler alert!) nearly killed.
This dude had some very important information in his head that would lead to a known terrorist named “The Dutchman” (Michael Pitt). This bad man may be able to hack into the U.S. nuclear launch codes, and the federal agent is our country’s only chance. But in his current condition, the info is all but lost. That’s when the hot-headed lead FBI agent (Gary Oldman) calls on an experimental neurosurgeon (Tommy Lee Jones) to perform what is basically a “memory-implant” procedure, where these important memories could be transplanted into the brain of another.
That brings us to the “criminal” of the title, Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a bad, bad, bad, bad dude currently serving life in prison. He kills without thought and has no concept of the way the world works. He is described as the ONLY candidate for this procedure based on the severe brain damage he received as a child, when his parents through him out of a moving car.
Because the movie doesn’t exist if it didn’t, the transplant operation works, but with unexpected results. Jericho escapes and then struggles between the man he once was, and the man he has been forced to become.
Costner is having a great time playing a guy this horrendous, and it’s a strong performance. Gal Gadot is effective as the caring wife and Gary Oldman shines as the loose-lipped maniac in pursuit of Costner. If this were 10-15 years ago, it might have been Tommy Lee Jones cast in Oldman’s role, but instead he plays a sensitive and worried old doctor and isn’t given much to sink his teeth into.
What starts as very intriguing science fiction – think of The Fugitive crossed with Total Recall – slowly devolves into mindlessness. About halfway through, you’ll start questioning many of the characters’ actions, and by the end, you might be laughing at the inconsistencies. Jericho Stewart is one heck of a memorable screen character, but he is confined here by a script not worthy of his time.
There is enough good stuff here to recommend, but for me, it became too much with the storyline involving the wife late in the film. Criminal was a very compelling idea that wasn’t cooked enough to be tasty. It’s a chase that doesn’t know what to do once it’s found.
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Run Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Antje Traue, Michael Pitt, Alice Eve
Directed by Ariel Vromen (The Iceman, Danika, Rx)
Opens locally on Friday, April 15, 2016 (check for show times).