Criminal (2016)

Posted by Joel Copling on April 14, 2015

Not but a minute after the central narrative hook of "Criminal" (a title as generic as it is fitting for the movie to which it belongs) is introduced, the inevitable thought crossed my mind that there had to be a simpler method of going about all this hubbub. Director Ariel Vromen and screenwriters Douglas Cook and David Weisberg seem hellbent on loading this already silly scenario with simply more silliness that it's a wonder the film's considerable failures aren't more pronounced. Pronounced badness is, of course, more interesting than the kind showcased by this movie, which is the kind of badness that isn't in the least interesting. The film simply goes through the motions toward being pretty bad and fulfills its promise while we shrug.

The film opens in mid-stream as we follow Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) being followed by some sort of henchman. From the get-go, something is off about the film's energy. There isn't any life to Dana Gonzales' drearily plain cinematography or any sense that there was a level of difficulty for the part of the film's crew devoted to its sound design (a lot of bullets fired and hitting their targets, some vehicular carnage here and there). Anyway, Pope is captured and nearly killed by main heavy Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Molla) and his lieutenant Elsa's (Antje Traue) use of a cattle gun to the head (ick). Pope's commanding officer Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) needs the information regarding where Pope stashed "the Dutchman" (Michael Pitt), who according the screenwriters' mood is either a villain willing to kill innocents or an innocent himself and an informant.

Wells's plan is to place the part of the frontal lobe of Pope's brain that controls memory (with the help of a doctor played by Tommy Lee Jones, who seems to be here mostly to fill the screen with his presence) onto that of Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a prisoner in such solitary confinement that he must wear chains wrapped around his neck and hands and connected to the walls of his cell. He's a psychopath as a result of a grievous cranial injury during childhood and suffers Frontal Lobe Syndrome as a result. He is also "unable to calculate the consequences of his actions" yet escapes from custody with ease and a lot of needless bloodshed to follow some sort of money trail (which takes him to Pope's wife, played by Gal Gadot) while evading both Wells and Heimdahl's supporting forces.

Whatever movie in which Costner thinks he's acting is not the one that has made it to the screen. To be delicate, the actor's odd, twitchy performance is unfortunate at best and unintentionally funny at worst. It is, however, a lot more interesting than everything else around him, from the cartoonish villain, whose motive is pretty murky and whose comeuppance is over-the-top to the investigating agents whose actions constantly backfire upon themselves to the simple logic of going through all of this trouble (Human trials are five years away, the good doctor explains) to get information that they ultimately are able to investigate anyway. "Criminal" isn't exactly an insult because of its generic status, but it's a pretty dumb thing all the same.

Film Information

Kevin Costner (Jericho Stewart), Gary Oldman (Quaker Wells), Tommy Lee Jones (Dr. Franks), Jordi Molla (Xavier Heimdahl), Ryan Reynolds (Bill Pope), Gal Gadot (Jill Pope), Scott Adkins (Pete Greensleeves), Alice Eve (Marta Lynch), Michael Pitt (Jan Strook), Antje Traue (Elsa).

Directed by Ariel Vromen and written by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg.

Rated R (violence, language throughout).

113 minutes.

Released on April 15, 2016.