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Criminal is a dull, pointless action movie that’s as uninspired and bland as its title.
When CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is killed in the line of duty, his memories are implanted into the mind of death-row inmate Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner) as a last-ditch effort to complete Pope’s final mission. A hacker whose handle is The Dutchman (Michael Pitt) has something that, in the wrong hands, could lead to World War III – and Pope is the only one who knew where he is.
Criminal is riddled with plot holes that cannot even support its own basic premise. Apparently the CIA thinks that the best course of action when they lose an agent with crucial information is to immediately turn to experimental science that’s years away from human testing. Then, when the head scientist, Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) recommends the extremely volatile and unstable Jericho for the procedure, they just go with it.
It’s only after Jericho proves unhelpful and runs away that they decide to explore other options, like investigating the rather small area of London where they know for sure their target is, because it’s where Pope was last seen before he died.
That’s not even getting into the fact that Pope had an easy way of contacting his superiors right from the start, but did not give them the information they needed, even though he knew he was being followed and probably did not have a lot of time. Oh, and it turns out The Dutchman was hiding in a location that could easily be linked back to Pope, and thus should have been one of the first places anyone would look.
I guess it’s a little unreasonable to expect a well-thought out plot in a high-concept action movie. Suspension of disbelief and all that. However, Jericho Stewart makes for such an unlikable protagonist that the movie never earns my suspension of disbelief.
Jericho frequently bullies and endangers innocent people, kills cops and government officials that are just doing their jobs and refuses to cooperate even though his actions could lead to the deaths of thousands, if not millions of people. I cannot switch off my brain, ignore the idiot plot and go along for the ride when I don’t like who I’m riding with. Criminal tries to make us believe that the infusion of Pope’s memories are changing the violent convict for the better, but there’s little to no evidence to suggest that.
Eventually, Jericho goes to Pope’s home to meet his wife Jill (Gal Gadot) and daughter Emma (Lara Decaro). There’s some potential for powerful drama with this setup – a confused man, faced with feelings and memories he’s never had before, and a wife and daughter given a chance to connect with a lost loved one. They are strangers who know everything about each other.
Rather than tap into that interesting idea, Criminal goes for brute-force sentimentality. Emma almost immediately start treating Jericho like a father, kissing him goodnight on the cheek, even though she met him just hours ago. After Jericho shares some of Bill’s memories, Jill also starts trusting and helping him. It’s cheap, exploitative and only there to set up their inevitable kidnapping in the movie’s climax.
Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Mollà) makes a lousy antagonist, one that spends all his time sitting behind a laptop and speechifying. He wants to tear down the world’s governments. That’s pretty much it. Although with the amount of control he has over computers, cameras and security systems, I have to wonder why he even needs The Dutchman’s universal key.
Criminal wastes its ensemble cast. Gary Oldman is on autopilot as Quaker Wells, the guy in charge of the mission, and he’s far from the only one. They are not bad performances, nor they are there interesting. Ryan Reynolds gets off easy, what with disappearing from the movie entirely after the opening.
For a lousy action movie, Criminal at least has the decency to have competent, well-shot action scenes. It’s hard to care what’s going on, but I was able to see it, which is more than I can say for a lot of bad action movies that overdo it with the shaky cam and the haphazard editing.
This is a mean-spirited, pointless movie that has nothing to offer to anyone. It’s watchable, but it wastes a great cast and a potentially interesting premise on stock characters and overused tropes. The only enjoyment I got from this was the hilarious scene of Kevin Costner trying to intimidate Tommy Lee Jones. It wasn’t meant to be funny, but it sure ended up that way.