Sponsor

New Release Review - CRIMINAL

A murdered CIA agent's memories are implanted in the brain of a narcissistic criminal.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Ariel Vromen

Starring: Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Alice Eve, Antje Traue, Scott Adkins, Michael Pitt, Robert Davi




Criminal may be packed with star names, most of whom likely spent no more than two days on set, but it establishes its b-movie sensibility early on, a welcome relief from the many Hollywood movies that go out of their way to be taken seriously despite boasting similarly ridiculous premises. For the most part, the movie is a lot of fun, and it's only its extended running time that stops it short of becoming a future Friday night six-pack and pizza classic.



Criminal adds to two strangely growing sub-genres. Like The Change-up and Self/less, it's yet another movie involving Ryan Reynolds and the swapping of brains/bodies. And like London Has Fallen and Survivor, it's another sub-par Hollywood movie set on the streets of London.

This time it's Reynolds' memories extracted from his CIA agent's brain and placed inside the noggin of the wonderfully named Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner continuing an overdue comeback), a psychotic criminal devoid of the basics of human morality or empathy. "Can we transfer the memories of a dead mammal into a living subject?", a CIA grunt asks Tommy Lee Jones' boffin with all the enthusiasm of an office junior collecting a sandwich order. Jones' Dr Frankenstein figure - actually named Dr Franks! - says he can indeed, but for some reason only the brain of a madman will suffice.


Criminal may be packed with star names, most of whom likely spent no more than two days on set, but it establishes its b-movie sensibility early on. It rips off several sources - most explicitly John Woo's Face Off, along with a second rate Spanish villain clearly modelled on Javier Bardem's Skyfall baddie - and does little to hide its plagiarism. It makes little effort to establish any credibility for the science that leads to its ludicrous scenario, with Peter Cushing's Frankenstein laying down a more realistic blueprint than the half-assed mumblings of Jones here.

Yet this is a welcome relief from the many Hollywood movies that go out of their way to be taken seriously despite boasting similarly ridiculous premises. For the most part, the movie is a lot of fun, and it's only its extended running time that stops it short of becoming a future Friday night six-pack and pizza classic.


While most of the cast look embarrassed - Jones sports a constant scowl as though a key grip has wandered into his eyeline and interrupted his acting process - Costner seizes onto his role and appears to be having a lot of fun. His Jericho Stewart is an over the top Frankenstein's monster that takes hilarious delight in causing mayhem. In the movie's first act we watch him run riot on the streets of London, stealing kebabs, beating up café customers ("Who punches someone in a patisserie?" is one of the film's great lines) and pumping house music out of a stolen van as he drives around the UK capital's streets (whose soundtrack consists of extras repeating the words "Tits" and "Wanker!") like Eddie Murphy arriving in Beverly Hills.

We also get another classic shouty Gary Oldman turn as a CIA section chief apparently named after a Californian winery - Quaker Wells! Then there's Michael Pitt as a Dutch man who goes by the name of 'The Dutchman'. As the plot involves a countdown to him performing a nefarious deed on behalf of 'Spanish anarchists' (the movie's nothing if not original in its choice of villains), I struggled to contain my laughter every time a credit flashed up on screen alerting us to our proximity to 'Dutchman's Deadline', which sounds like a very naughty European game show. Elsewhere, Antje Traure is magnetic as an ass-kicking villainess, and while his name is listed in the credits, I was disappointed by the absence of the great Robert Davi. Alice Eve is bizarrely cast in a role that offers her about two lines.


There's something fascinating about a movie whose antagonist gradually becomes its protagonist, and this allows the film to get away with the sort of collateral damage that's become de rigeur in Hollywood blockbusters. Unlike say, John McClane in A Good Day To Die Hard or Superman in Man of Steel, it makes sense here for Costner to carelessly kill innocent cops and civilians on his quest, as his character's meant to be an unfeeling psychopath, not an all-American hero.

While there's a lot to enjoy here if you're in the right frame of mind (i.e. drunk), it ultimately drags on a bit too much and the last half hour will have you checking your watch, or should you watch this at home, hitting the fast forward button on your remote.
Help support The Movie Waffler by sharing this post




discussion by