Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
When director Ariel Vromen blew out the candles on his birthday cake last year he may well have made the ultimate movie wish: a script worthy of a 90’s action thriller and enough cross-generational star power to ensure the widest possible audience. Oh and if the wish gods were feeling generous, those stars should ideally include Oscar winners and action stars. What could possibly go wrong with a wish like that?
Criminal opens with Kevin Costner’s gravely voice intoning the words that seek set the tone for the next almost two hours, “You hurt me. I hurt you worse.” Written by the guys who gave us The Rock (Douglas Cook and David Weisberg), the somewhat muddled script tells the story of CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) who is killed keeping a very important secret about a hacker who can access nuclear launch codes. But it’s okay because the Dutchman, as he is known online, is a good guy who only wants immunity, a new identity, an American passport, and ten million dollars. He doesn’t want to actually launch any nuclear missiles – that would be crazy. Crazy like anarchist Heimbahl (Jordi Mollà) who wants to solve all the world’s problems by eliminating governments. Since Pope lost the dead pool, the CIA decides to transfer his memories using untested technology created by Tommy Lee Jones’ Dr. Franks. The best candidate Franks can possibly think of is ultra-violent sociopath Jericho Stewart (Costner) who, due to being thrown out of a window as a child, has no capability for empathy.
What follows is an exciting race around London while Jericho attempts to reconcile the unfamiliar memories and feelings with his own past. He finds himself speaking French, paying for medicine, and not killing people he normally would have slaughtered without a second a thought. Most frustrating of all, Jericho finds himself struggling with “that love word” as he deals with Pope’s widow (cast standout Gal Gadot) and daughter.
Vromen’s direction is never boring and the movie moves along at a brisk pace prompted primarily by a never-ending series of questionable decisions by the bumbling CIA Head of Mission, Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman). It should be noted that while some of the Movie’s violence is somewhat cringe inducing, it does not seek overtake the storytelling or the performances.
Body-swapping stories are hardly new ground nowadays. Neither are rogue hackers, violent sociopaths, or CIA plots to thwart world domination by rogue anarchists. In fact, taken individually few of the plot devices in this Movie are groundbreaking. Taken as a whole, however, you couldn’t wish for a more fun way to pass a few hours at the movie theatre. It would be simply Criminal to miss seeing this Movie.
VVS Films release Criminal on Friday, April 15, 2016.