“Criminal” is your textbook “Popcorn Movie”. The cast includes big names: Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman and even Ryan Reynolds in a small role. It’s action-packed with plenty of violence – and some unexpected bloodshed. There are elements of danger, suspense, weird science and a hint of mystery. “Criminal” doesn’t break any new ground, but its execution of the simplistic formula makes it more than satisfying.
Reynolds owns the first five minutes. He plays CIA agent Bill Pope, who gets murdered while on an important mission. But government officials still want the info Pope has in his head. So they recruit Dr. Franks (Jones), a brain specialist, to transfer Pope’s memories into the mind of a Death Row inmate named Jerico (Costner). His brain (for reasons I won’t give here) is perfect for this experiment.
Following the procedure, Jerico wakes-up with the mother of all headaches, but he also starts thinking and acting like Pope and begins working with top CIA agents Quaker (Oldman) and assistant Marta (Alice Eve from “Star Trek Into Darkness”) to hunt down an evil, cyber hacker closing-in on access to all the codes of the weapons of mass destruction throughout the world.
Jerico’s Jekyll and Hyde act, as he becomes more and more like Pope, translates into awkward, unpredictable and sometimes violent interactions with total strangers. Costner commands these scenes, and his attempts to do right (even in the most challenging of circumstances) keep you glued to the action. This one of the most appealing aspects of “Criminal”.
The scenes involving Jerico and Pope’s grieving wife (played by Gal Gadot – aka Wonder Woman) are fairly strong, though a young daughter is one of the most poorly written child characters in recent movie memory. This child latches-on way too quickly to a total stranger (who broke into their house and tied mommy up, by the way), inviting him to stay for dinner, teaching him to play the piano, and then kissing him on the cheek before she goes to bed. Yes, Jerico tells the girl he knew her father, but the instant relationship between these two isn’t close to being believable.
Oldman can add his role to a resume packed with “supporting characters who yell a lot and order people around”. And Jones, not in charge for a change, provides some innocent-looking facial expressions I hadn’t seen from him in a while.
“Criminal” does have some ridiculous elements and few surprises in the story department, but I have to admit I was never bored, instead going with the premise and staying in the zone through the predictable ending.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Criminal” gets a B-.
Running Time: 113 min.