Tweetable Takeaway: Between its preposterous plot and poor writing, avoid this #Criminal at all costs. Tweet
If nothing else, CRIMINAL shows us the exciting possibilities of science. Namely, that if you’re a high-level CIA agent who gets tortured to death with a cattle prod, you can rest assured that your memories will live on inside the mind of a violent convicted felon with a bad haircut. There is the possibility the felon will use those memories to break into your home and attempt to rape your widowed wife, but give him time and he’ll reveal his heart of gold and prevent World War III! Such is the premise of Kevin Costner’s latest movie, Criminal.
And it’s a premise that’s just begging to be embraced by its own absurdity. But to its own detriment, Criminal plays it straight. There’s a sense of embarrassment for its top-notch players having to recite the lines in this movie, and act as if the scenes are part of everyday, realistic life in whatever world Criminal takes place. Not to say there’s a lack of commitment. Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Kevin Costner all inhabit their characters completely. They deserve something better, or at the very least, deserve a right to have fun with the B-grade premise of the movie. As mentioned, Ryan Reynolds plays a CIA agent who gets killed, and once his body is recovered, a high-level government official named Quaker Wells (Oldman), wants to put the experimental, memory-transferring procedure Dr. Franks (Jones) has been working on for the past 18 years. Dr. Franks isn’t ready for human trials, but that doesn’t matter to Quaker, an impatient man who is only able to yell every time he speaks. Lucky for Quaker, Dr. Franks informs him that the procedure should work on someone born without a fully formed frontal lobe, a rare condition that only 1 out of every 10 million people have. Seems a little ludicrous to spend one’s life researching a procedure that can barely be performed for lack of subjects, but such is one of the many questions with which Criminal can’t be bothered.
Who is the lucky recipient of this memory transfer? Why, the nearly insane convict Jericho Stewart (Costner, of course). With long hair and crazy affectations, Costner’s performance draws comparisons to Nicholas Cage in Con-Air. In fact, the entire movie feels as if it deserves the manic performance of Nicholas Cage, and could only be improved upon with such a performance. When Costner goes for crazy, violent, sociopathic behavior, it comes off as uncomfortable. His Jericho character also invites no sympathy at all beforehand, which is fine when it comes to creating tension, but later pays off in devastatingly bad ways. For instance, after getting the memory transplant, Quaker, in another of the film’s plot misfires, immediately becomes impatient and orders Jericho to be executed. Jericho escapes, being the crafty criminal he is, and pieces together clues of the dead agent’s life. There’s a bag of money he keeps seeing, and a beautiful wife. It makes sense for a character such as Jericho to make it his mission to procure the bag, but he also breaks into the house of his widowed wife, Jill Pope (Gal Gadot). Jericho ties Jill up and ostensibly is about to rape her when he’s beset by fond memories of her that also inhabit his mind. At this point, however, it doesn’t matter that Jericho changes his mind about raping Jill; any sympathy for him has been thrown out the window.
Over the course of the film, Jericho gets more and more affected by these pesky things he comes to know as “emotions,” and continuously goes back to Jill’s house. Once he tells her about his condition, she wants him to talk about memories she shared with her dead husband. Jericho complies, talking about wedding days and their daughter. There’s a sense it’s supposed to come off as touching and emotionally sensitive. Instead, it feels unbelievably creepy. A strange 60-year-old criminal is talking about intimate details of a marriage with a woman half his age, in her home. Later in the film, they visit a beach from the Pope wedding, and the effect is, at worst, unintentionally comedic. At best, it’s simply a misfire.
Oh, and along the way there’s some convoluted plot involving hackers and a world anarchist bent on blowing up major cities to incite global destruction and have humanity start over. You can guess whether Jericho saves the day from the generic evil plot or not. What remains is a poorly written movie that veers on being so bad it’s good, but can’t even manage to excel at its own badness. There are entertaining moments, but they’re of the completely unintentional, “what am I watching right now?” sort. If you’re in the mood for awesomely bad, go watch a Nicholas Cage flick instead.
I give Criminal 1.5 awful convict haircuts out of 5
Score: 1.5 out of 5
Wil Loper | Contributor