Kevin Costner gets downright nasty in “Criminal,” a quasi sci-fi action thriller with a big name cast and straight-to-video execution.
Some of the plot elements are laughable and nonsensical. But there’s entertainment value in watching venerated actors drop f-bombs while racking up a bloody body count.
The filmmakers went full steam ahead on playing serious with a Bond-like villain and cuddly patriarchal subplot. Once you accept that, then there’s some fun to be had.
“Criminal” opens in London with CIA operative, Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds), on the run from a powerful anarchist (Jordi Mollà). He’s carrying a classified program that could take down governments. Pope takes his secret to the grave, much to the chagrin of the CIA chief (Gary Oldman) and the villains. The U.S. military activates a test program to try and recover the critical information.
A neurosurgeon (Tommy Lee Jones) transplants Pope’s memories into the consciousness of Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a brain damaged, remorseless psychopath. The operation seems like a failure, until Stewart escapes and seeks out Pope’s grieving wife (Gal Gadot).
The first thing that occurred to me while watching “Criminal” was its similarity to the movie “Selfless.” “Selfless was a film released in 2015, also starring Ryan Reynolds, about a man who gets a new body because he is dying from illness. The difference here is that Reynolds is the donor, not the beneficiary, and essentially has a
cameo in “Criminal.”
Costner is the lead, and he’s playing the most violent character of his career. He’s not maniacal in his approach to Stewart’s merciless nature. He’s an unhinged tough guy, who of course, finds humanity while protecting Pope’s family.
The old school leading men of this film, Costner, Oldman and Jones chew up the absurdity with delight. Oldman curses like a drunken sailor, whose principal intent is on stopping the terrorists at all costs and is not afraid to shed some blood. While Jones, who’s usually the troublemaker on screen, is the meek scientist swept up in the carnage.
I got a kick out of seeing these guys go all out. I really enjoyed the celebrities casted for the roles, and they were very committed to the performance.
The ludicrous plot and poor direction are issues, but not the weakest link in the chain. Interestingly enough, those aren’t deal killers in “Criminal.” Gal Gadot has not proven she can act in the film. Her career is skyrocketing. She’s undoubtedly gorgeous, may be the nicest person in the world, but does not sell the character in this film. Her scenes in this movie are just terrible. She’s supposed to be the heart, the feminine warmth that brings out the good in Costner’s character but she doesn’t cut it, not by a mile.
“Criminal” is a mixed bag. It is not at all what it aims to be, but I found Costner’s dark turn to be worth watching. He’s rarely the anti-hero, never this bloodthirsty, but pulls it off enough to raise the stock of the entire film.
I found the movie to be invigorating, action-packed and awe-inspiring. I would most definitely recommend it to action lovers.