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Criminal (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

CRIMINAL (2016)

Starring: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot

Written By: Douglas Cook, David Weisberg Directed By: Ariel Vromen

The Shot

Criminal takes a whole lot of talent, throws it at an interesting idea, and then forgets to turn on the oven to let it all bake.  There’s just enough here to make it okay for a single watch, but I really don’t think I’ll ever feel a need to see it again.


The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

SWISS SINGLES.

It’s cheese, I guess.  With holes.


Pairs Well With...

MOLSON GOLDEN.

Yeah, this should have been better.

“You hurt me, I hurt you worse.”


In 2015, audiences got to see a movie wherein a character played by a long-established actor got his mind shucked into the body of Ryan Reynolds.  The flick was called Self/Less, and it wasn’t bad.

Now in 2016, audiences have the chance to see what happens when a character played by Ryan Reynolds gets his mind shucked into the body of a character played by a long-established actor.  This picture’s called Criminal, and… it doesn’t totally suck.

Notice the difference there?  It’s the difference between “maybe I’d consider revisiting it on the streaming service or if it lands in the under $5 bin at the big box” and “I don’t regret seeing it but once is quite enough, thanks.”

As noted, the concept of mind and/or memory transfer from one character to another is nothing new, but it’s still pretty interesting, and Criminal starts off with lots of potential in the story department.  CIA spy – Reynolds, of course – is the only man who knows critical information that can lead to yet another man who holds the key to controlling the entire United States military apparatus on a USB drive – what, am I losing you already?  Come one; you’ve accepted worse from Dolph and Jean-Claude, right?  Right.  Anyway, CIA man gets killed, but there’s a neurosurgical genius who just may have a way to imprint the dead guy’s memories onto the brain of someone else who conveniently suffered a childhood brain injury that left his own melon blank in all the right places.  Of course, that brain injury also turned the ‘someone else’ into a raving, amoral psycho, but y’know; lemons, lemonade, right?  Sure.  Most of us have been around the block enough times to know that in the right hands, this could work.

And hey, ‘someone else’ (the character’s called Jericho; of course they went biblical) is played by none other than Kevin Costner!  Backed up by Dr. Tommy Lee Jones and CIA Boss Man Gary Oldman!  Those have got to be the right hands, yeah?  Perhaps they could’ve been, had another editor or six made some extra passes over the script, or if the director had done… something.  Preferably something that involved a single coherent vision.

Instead…

Instead, the talented cast is left to read dialogue that sounds like placeholder material in service of a story that’s loaded with holes and not quite sure what it wants to do with itself or its characters.  I’ll never accuse Gary Oldman of phoning it in, but his overly frustrated performance here is probably the closest you’ll ever come to seeing it.  As for Costner, the former heartthrob golden boy gets to show his range as a hobo who can’t decide if he wants to be Jason Voorhees or Jason Bourne, but damn, the dude needs to gargle before reading.  (The raspy vocalizations are extremely distracting, as is the gigantic, poorly-sewn hole in the back of his head that no one ever seems to consider might be worth a bandage of some kind.)  I’m pretty sure that the audience is supposed to connect with the inner conflict experienced by a completely amoral man suddenly acquiring a conscience and the ability to love other human beings (no, I’m not kidding), but even Costner can’t draw enough blood from this stone to make it work, even when Gal Gadot shows up to lend a helping hand and completely outdo everyone else on the screen.  As for the talented Mr. Jones… did I mention that the script doesn’t really know what to do with its characters and that the director doesn’t really know what to do with his cast?

I’d mention the villain, but he’s barely worth the effort, given that he’s little more than a shallow plot device on par with that USB drive that has everyone in such a tizzy.  Because, y’know, it can be used to control the entire US military.  And stuff.

Even odds say that even if you never see this movie and never read another thing about it, you can guess what ultimately happens with the USB drive.

And yet, for all of its flaws, I can’t quite bring myself to hate Criminal.  Had I seen it on a different day than I did, perhaps I would.  But as things stand, I’ll say that one could find worse ways to pass an hour and three quarters-ish, especially if one catches it playing for free on a streaming service.  There’s just enough polish here to make it work for a single pass, but after that?  Yeah, no.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, May, 2016


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