Some people’s brains are better left untouched.
Super, duper and incredibly well-trained CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) tragically dies while traveling to a secret location to meet a hacker who can launch missiles at will. Although all hope is, for a little while, lost, eventually, officials come up with an idea that will transfer Pope’s brain-particles and memory to somebody else’s, so that they’re able to figure out just where this evil and sneaky terrorist may be hiding out at. While they’re a bit stumped for solutions, the guinea pig for the procedure ends up being Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner), a violent and dangerous death-row inmate, who doesn’t know how to act in actual, civilized society, nor does he have any interest in doing so. Essentially, he’s the perfect person for a mission like this, because nobody cares if he lives or dies, not even his own self. And now that Jerico has Pope’s memory and knowledge, he decides to track down the terrorist, but at the same time, can’t keep himself away from visiting and being apart of Pope’s own family, who sadly, don’t know what to do or think after his death, nor do they know who to trust.
If you take the sci-fi elements of a very “meh” movie from Ryan Reynolds like Self/Less, take the action-thriller elements of a very “meh” movie from Kevin Costner like 3 Days to Kill, then you’ve basically got a Criminal – an overall, very “meh” movie. For some reason, you’d think that with a premise that’s at least somewhat interesting, a solid, if surprisingly well-done cast, and Costner leading the charge, that a movie like Criminal would actually be tons and tons of fun. However, that’s not really what happens.
Instead, a good portion of the movie is spent as we watch, wait and see what happens with this whole sci-fi gimmick the movie seems to jam down our throats. While we get this idea that, apparently, through the sheer magic of science and all that junk, Costner’s new brain will also have a lot of memories and knowledge that Reynolds’ brain has, and therefore, he’ll be going through some sort of crazy transformation. Not just as a killer, either, but as a human being, too. This already hints at the idea that the movie may want to be a whole lot more serious and dramatic than it ought to be, which is why the moments where we actually to see the humanity in this character, or better yet, this silly story, don’t really work or matter in the grand scheme.
Basically, everyone showing up to Criminal wants to see it for guns, explosions, sci-fi stuff and Kevin Costner cursing and beating people up.
There is that in Criminal, however, it’s not always enough to keep interesting. Too often does it feel like the movie is making its plot up as it goes along, where we don’t really get what’s going on with the whole brain-stuff, nor do we ever get an understanding of who Costner’s character is supposed to be after, what that baddie does, and what he’s promising to do that’s so bad. Eventually, it all comes down to a hard drive, which is the classic, post-Y2k action movie trope that never gets old, but also makes that subplot seem a lot less important in the long run. All anybody really cares for is the action and Costner himself, and that’s about it.
And yes, there is action and it’s sometimes good, if a bit frantic. But really, what it’s here for is to just push along a story that doesn’t know where it wants to go, or what it wants to do – it’s just happy that it got a bunch of incredibly talented, famous people to be apart of it, so why waste their time, right? After all, they did come here for a paycheck and to do a little acting, so why not just give them crap material and leave it at that?
Well, there’s no problem with that. Except that yes, it is, because you have a really great cast in here with Criminal and they’re all mostly wasted.
Costner is the only one who gets off just fine here and actually makes the movie somewhat watchable. It’s great to see Costner play a character that’s so despicable, so disgusting and so vile, that after awhile of watching him, you almost don’t want him to grow a heart and learn the error of his ways. Sure, with this being a movie and all, you know that’s going to happen, but still, there’s a certain joy in watching Costner steal people’s food, beat dudes up for their trucks, and touch nurses rumps that makes it hard to actually care about a plot. Just give me Kevin Costner acting like a prick for two hours and you can have my money.
And hey, next time, movie, if you’re going to give me that, might as well give me some better roles for the solid supporting-cast, too, okay? Because giving people like Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Alice Eve, Michael Pitt, Gal Gadot, and Amaury Nolasco, roles that don’t really challenge them or give them anything to do, is not just a waste of their time (except, not really, because they’re getting paid to do this), but mine as well. When I see that Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, and Gary Oldman are all reuniting for a movie, over two decades after JFK, I’m automatically excited, so why not deliver on those expectations? I understand it can be a bit hard to give the audience what they always want and desire, but come on, there’s got to be a little more here than what we get. Especially when you give Alice Eve five minutes of screen-time, or have Michael Pitt do a terrible, Russian-accent, and just leave Tommy Lee Jones there to sit around and mope.
Shame on you, movie. Shame on you.
Try harder next time.
Consensus: Criminal gets by on the strengths of its cast, but also doesn’t do much with a semi-interesting plot, except allow for it to fall into action-thriller tropes and conventions.
5 / 10