Quick Hit: Good in some places, terrible in others, the movie is entertaining in stretches due to its far out premise and all-star cast.
There aren’t too many directors that are sure enough of themselves to cast a star like Ryan Reynolds and then relegate him to essentially a non-speaking role. But director Ariel Vromen does just that. However, throughout the movie, there are quite a few mistakes that a more seasoned director would not allow themselves to make, no matter how bold. The movie in question today? Criminal.
This movie happens quickly. Essentially, Ryan Reynolds is an agent of some sort that finds himself in the clutches of the wrong people. They kill him (in a fairly gruesome manner). The problem is that when he dies, he takes with him valuable information that the agency needs. The solution? Enter Dr. Tommy Lee Jones. He has this crazy theory that you can swap a dead person’s memories with a live one’s, as long as their brain is in the right physical state.
Which leads us to Kevin Costner’s character, Jericho. He is spending time in prison for “lots of bad things”. He’s in solitary confinement, and conveniently has a front temporal lobe injury from an accident as a child (his dad threw him out the window…some accident). They swap brains and boom! We’ve got a movie. Jericho learns that he now has several skills and memories from Reynold’s agent and uses them to try and find a bag of money. However, those pesky things emotions also found their way through, and now he has to feel things. This causes him to have a change of heart and try to stop the other bad guys.
So, basically, there’s quite a bit going on. Terrorism, mind-swapping, crime fighting, and a mystery to boot. It really surprises me how well a lot of that is juggled. The problem is unfortunately with the script, which turns some characters into bad archetypes – stock hacker, stock woman agent, etc., and other characters into just a complete mess. For instance, Costner (who I usually really like) is perfectly cast for this role of a man finding his emotions and turning a page. He’s done it a time or two before – namely Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, etc. The problem here is that the script turns him into a grunting, violent man. I understand the violence…. But not the constant grunting.
Gary Oldman is also in this as the lead agent. You would think that he would bring a little clarity and poise, but he’s almost as much of a mess. Instead of making a single rational decision the entire movie, he simply runs around. When Jericho first wakes up, Oldman yells at his face until he decides to kill him. Later in the movie, Oldman is running around yelling in people’s faces. At the end of the movie, Oldman is on top of Jericho yelling in his face. That’s apparently the only thing that he can accomplish.
There were two actors that really knocked it out though. The first was Tommy Lee, giving an extremely understated performance. He actually makes you forget that he’s in the movie because he is so low key. The other, playing Reynold’s wife, is Gal Gadot. She wrings emotion from nearly every scene that she’s in, and makes a lot of the stuff with Jericho seem believable.
The movie isn’t great, but it’s definitely watchable. I’m going to give Criminal a “C+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"