Criminal 2016 Review
Criminal Movie 2016 Review
Criminal is the kind of movie that’s distributed straight-to-DVD these days. An outlandish plot, a scrumptious serving of R-rated action, and a cast of guys eager to kick ass and take names. It won’t blow away any minds in the modern age, but this mid-paced thriller thrives when given the opportunity to explore it’s low level intentions.
As it’s title suggests, Criminal sets focus on Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner), lifelong convict with a rocker goatee and a mile-long list of misdemeanors. Victim of a childhood accident, Stewart’s afflicted frontal lobe feels zero empathy towards mankind, and the high security treatment of this ‘Hannibal Lecter’ type really goes out of it’s way to prove as much. Then, like action movie clockwork, CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is murdered in the field, forcing officials to attempt a radical neurosurgery to salvage intel. Their plan is bafflingly complex: transport Pope’s memories into the mind of expendable guinea pig Stewart, under the pretense this irritated inmate completes the mission. Boom. It’s the kind of plot Jean Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren would’ve purred like an engine back in the day, though Costner more than makes do with his salty cynicism.
Playing swagger fuelled Stewart, the veteran actor musks his unmistakable charisma and pushes less believable points to exciting levels, aided by the briefly charming addition of Deadpool star Reynolds. Bits and pieces of the agent’s life clash with Costner’s psyche, calling in a newfound integrity and the frazzled mourning of Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot as Pope’s wife. It’s here that Criminal really tries to etch out a narrative heart, though some shoddy logic and glossed over reasoning quickly remind the viewer it’s all make-believe. CIA baddies and international terrorists pursue the jaunty Jerico through a wild array of events, though the convenient lapses in transferred memory make for more than their fair share of eye rolling moments. Even still, supporting turns from Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman keep the mood tolerable amidst this old school espionage. Neither vet does much in their relegated screen time, but the sheer presence of such strong performers is a welcome boost.
Director Ariel Vromen, last seen with chilly biopic The Iceman (2013), makes no pretense about his throwback intentions, and the content reflects as much, often to a fault. Clearly motivated scenes are engaging while sequences of complexity wind up buried behind the filmmaker’s reliance on Costner as an acting crutch. In this capacity, Vromen’s grim flavor may have been better suited for a performer of lesser status, and more in the way of indie level intensity. As it stands, the actor simply isn’t enough to salvage an otherwise forgettable action/thriller. If only it didn’t try to do so much. Criminal can still provide decent fun, however, as long as you don’t look too hard. Any close up inspections, and this thing folds like a dysfunctional napkin.