Hot Take: Criminal – adj. Shameful, disgraceful… Yup! That’s about right.
In Criminal, Kevin Costner plays Jericho Stewart, a death row inmate who because of a frontal lobe injury at a very young age makes him the prime candidate for an experimental memory transplant surgery to save the memories of CIA agent Billy Pope (Ryan Reynolds) in a race against time as screamingly incompetent CIA honcho Quaker… yeah, that’s really the name they gave him… Wells (Gary Oldman) and his equally incompetent CIA agents need those memories to stop “The Dutchman” (Michael Pitt) from selling a dangerous technology called the Wormhole to the highest bidder. Wells seeks the help of
Dr. Frankenstein Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) to transfer Pope’s memories to Stewart whose impressionable frontal lobe (and source of his horrible behavior… the ridiculous gruff voice is free of charge).
Immediately after the surgery, Wells abandons the plan in about 5 minutes when Stewart gives him some lip which is a flimsy set-up to allow Stewart to escape and be a horrible human being who kills, drops f-bombs, laughs at the sight of two guys kissing, beats the hell out of people, steals food (and whatever else he wants) and bops along to EDM (which might be the most egregious crime of all). It’s not until Jericho is unconsciously drawn to Pope’s home where Pope’s memories start to take over but not until he has Pope’s wife Jill (Gal Gadot) wrapped in duck tape and is headed to do bad things to Pope’s daughter Emma (Lara Decaro). Jericho leaves and mixes in more debauchery as he looks for some bag of money that keeps flashing in his memories. The CIA is after him, the baddies are on his tail and Jericho can’t stop getting the feels because of these warm and fuzzy memories Pope has that are now stuck in his brain.
It doesn’t get any less ridiculous from there and while I usually don’t go through and describe the story much in these reviews, words can’t do the ridiculousness of this film justice. Criminal is an absolute disaster of a film. There’s few redeeming qualities as pretty much everyone in this film has shown they are capable of so much more at one time or another in their career. Costner is the best thing about the film but only because, for some reason, he always seems to be having so much fun being the bad guy (A Perfect World, Mr. Brooks). Oldman is a screaming mess as the world’s most incompetent CIA honcho to date. When Oldman’s Quaker meets Jericho, right after major brain surgery, he thinks it’s a good idea to hit him in the head. His decision making from there on isn’t much better. While Jones as Dr. Franks (really? Dr. Franks? Could you be more obvious?) is ok, the fact that after they fly him from Dover, Delaware to London, England and do this highly unethical (which is never once discussed, by the way) surgery, they release him on to the streets of London. Gal Gadot is beautiful and plays her part perfectly as Billy’s grieving widow. It’s not her fault the character is so poorly and predictably written that your eyes might actually fall out of your head when they roll over and over again. Michael Pitt is “The Dutchman” — the nervous hacker trying to hit the jackpot while running from the worst guy to sell his dangerous technology to the lesser of two evils (THE RUSSIANS!) because Pope never got the money to him. Oh, and there’s the morally corrupt bad guy (Jordi Molla) and I’m not just referring to his choice to appear on the Piers Morgan show in “stock footage” the CIA just so happens to be watching to give us his background story. He even has a henchman who is also his hot girlfriend… because we’ve never seen that before.
Some people find these movies fun. I’m one to occasionally find a guilty pleasure hidden in these rotten offerings. Criminal, unfortunately, is not one of those movies. And the marvelous resume of the cast it assembled is all the more frustrating as it is just a criminal waste of talent.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Costner Can Do Bad All By Himself
There are a few shiny nuggets within Criminal and they are all thanks to Costner. He’s committed to the role (and that stupid gruff voice he’s adopted for the part) and gives you some of these “bad” good guy moments that make you chuckle at what you’re seeing. There’s some cheap one liners that are a throwback to a different era of movies (and that’s not really a good thing).
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Why Is Everyone So Incompetent?
Everything feels so poorly planned and incompetent yet there are so many things planned out. There are plot holes big enough to drive a stolen ambulance (or van or motorcycle or whatever else you want to steal because apparently, everyone leaves their keys in the ignition in London) through.
- Gary Oldman
Oldman is a brilliant actor with a storied list of great performances. While Criminal is not his worst role (did you know Oldman once played a role where he was Matthew McConaughey’s twin brother who also happened to be a dwarf?), it’s certainly an unforgettably bad one.
- If You Don’t Figure This One Out, You Aren’t Watching Enough Movies
The wrong ones, too. Can someone explain to me why it took so damn long to get there when we knew where we were going in the first place???