'Criminal' movie review: A mediocre thriller with nothing to recommend it

Mihir Fadnavis

May,14 2016 10:45 41 IST

There are terrible movies, there are some movies whose existence mystifies you, and then there are films like Criminal, which are so corny and strange you wonder how big names got attached to them.

Twenty-five years after Oliver Stone’s JFK, Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones share screen space in Criminal. The film is directed by Ariel Vromen, who made the watchable gangster drama The Iceman three years ago. With such names attached to the project, you would expect at least an entertaining film. Unfortunately, Criminal is as generic as its title and a thriller so mediocre it makes you wish for the pulpy thrills of '90s potboilers.

Kevin Costner in Criminal. Screengrab from YouTube

Kevin Costner in Criminal. Screengrab from YouTube

Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA honcho is on the run from bad guys who work for some sort of Spanish bad guy named Heimbahl (Jordi Molla). Heimbahl wants to know the whereabouts of a hacker the Dutchman (Michael Pitt) who has gained access to USA’s defence. Pope is killed and the head of the CIA Wells (Gary Oldman) decides to do something crazy. He incorporates a procedure that transplants memories from one brain to another. So the Frankenstein doctor Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) chooses a criminal named Jericho (Kevin Costner) as the recipient. With Pope’s memories and abilities, Jericho escapes the CIA stronghold and makes a run for it, trying to juggle two different personalities.

The concept is ridiculous, even in a sci fi zone, and it feels like a 12-year-old decided to rewrite The Bourne Identity. And despite the plot’s silliness, unfortunately the film takes itself way too seriously. As Jericho deals with his own child abuse issues and Pope’s traumas and does ridiculous stunts in the process of fighting with numerous baddies, you can’t help but guffaw at the stupidity of the whole thing. There’s a subplot involving Pope’s wife (Gal Gadot) and daughter for a ham-fisted emotional hook in between Jericho trying to juggle different objectives. The action sequences are painfully dull and no amount of rapid-fire editing convinces the viewer that anything remotely exciting is going on.

The film is also a sad reminder of how a good actor like Costner has been washed away over the years. His sociopathic tendencies are established by a cartoonish Batman-like growling voice, and his stunts are obviously done by a double. The villain in the film guffaws like an '80s Bollywood bad guy, utilising ridiculous ‘techy’ methods to track down Jericho. Oldman does his best to keep a straight face, but Jones does his very best to make it clear that he is not interested in being in the movie. The biggest mystery is why Reynolds, who is a pretty big star, chose such a small role in the film. Perhaps the lure of easy money, and the entirety of his screen time being in bed with Gal Gadot was an offer he decided not to refuse. The only interesting aspect of this movie is that this is Reynolds’ fourth role in five years where he plays someone who switches bodies.