Scott Carney ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Once in a while, a film comes along that takes previously established plot clichés and turns them on their head in a new and interesting way. Criminal is not that movie. In fact, where Criminal’s distinction lies is in its ability to combine multiple plot clichés and do nothing new with them.
Kevin Costner stars as a convict with token tough guy name Jericho, who has the memories of a CIA operative (Ryan Reynolds in a glorified cameo) placed in his brain after the operative is killed in battle. However, Jericho does not just acquire the operative’s memories but his skillset as well. So naturally, he does what any psychopathic criminal with the skills of Jason Bourne would do, and begins to terrorize people doing whatever and whenever he likes. However, when he meets the wife (Gal Gadot) and daughter of the late operative, he begins to have a change of heart. However, if this already wasn’t enough, Jericho must also help save the world from a ruthless anarchist (Jordi Molla) bent on destroying all the world governments. That synopsis alone feels overstuffed and it doesn’t translate well to film. So many different plots are happening at once that the audience never really has time to feel invested in any of them. However, even if one of these plots was given more dominance, each one is so generic that it still wouldn’t draw much attention. The plot with Jericho and the operative’s family is one that’s been told a million times before: The little girl is cute, so the hardened individual learns to love. That’s it. The mind switching plot and the villain’s plan to destroy the world are also as generic as can get, and have frankly been told better in other films. The same can be said of the film’s action sequences that, under the direction of Ariel Vroman (The Iceman), are kept mostly to close ups of Costner shooting and maiming people, which while not a horrible choice, is not very original or memorable.
I could be more forgiving of the familiarities of the film if the cast was able to sell what was happening, but unfortunately, even they can’t save the film. Gary Oldman, great in virtually everything he’s in, is reduced to nothing but a running and screaming maniac as the head of the CIA operation in charge of Jericho. This is also the case with Gal Gadot, the best part of Batman vs. Superman, who does nothing here but to serve as the typical female victim. Tommy Lee Jones also stars as the doctor behind the mind transplant operation, looking like he would rather be anywhere else the entire time. However, the biggest problem acting wise comes from Costner who has the responsibility, or rather the burden, of carrying this film on his shoulders. It’s not that Costner can’t carry a film (he’s obviously shown to have been capable of that in the past) but his Jericho is such an unlikable character from the beginning that it is difficult to root for him. Jericho kills police officers, beats innocent people, and upon first meeting Gadot’s character, gags her and ties her to her bed. I understand that Jericho is at first meant to be a psychopath but between Costner’s lack of charisma in the character’s portrayal and him lacking any other considerable depth, the horrific acts he commits in the first act are just that and are not particularly engaging.
Overall, Criminal is overstuffed and weakly acted, but its biggest crime may be that at a time where more films are taking chances with new and innovative stories, this one just offers the same old thing.
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