Criminal (2016) Review

“…like The Fugitive meets Forrest Gump…”

The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones; all examples of great trilogies in cinematic history. But none come close to my personal favourite trilogy: The Ryan Reynolds Mind-Swap Trilogy. The trilogy comes to a close with its most recent instalment, Criminal.

Criminal is a film about CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) who dies in the field. The problem is that he is the only person who knows the location of a hacker that has managed to find a way to control every piece of military weaponry in the USA, and he wants to sell that information for asylum into the country. This causes the CIA to do something very unorthodox: take Bill Pope’s memories and implant them into Jerico Stewart (played by Kevin Costner), a criminal who suffered head trauma at a young age and therefore has an under-developed frontal lobe.

Criminal is the kind of movie that I want to watch because either I will love the movie, or the  movie will be so bad that I will enjoy myself laughing at it. Of course I assumed that Criminal would fall into the second category, but I was very much mistaken. What I found when I watched Criminal was a movie that wasn’t just passable, it was really good.

Jerico has an underdeveloped frontal lobe, which makes his character unable to cope with the world and all of the people in it. Jerico is described as having absolutely no empathy, and no understanding that he can’t just do whatever he wants whenever he wants to. This makes his character very interesting to watch. He is no doubt terrifying, but he is also rather endearing. On a level I can relate to him because he doesn’t really understand the gravity of his actions, nor does he really understand the world around him. Sure he is a very bad guy, but the way that he is presented allows for a lot of empathy to build between him and the audience. There is also quite a bit of comedy in his character, although it’s not really overt. This comedy comes again from his failure to understand various social norms and ways to conduct himself, but still at the heart of this is a very tragic character. Of course this all comes together because of Kevin Costner’s absolutely stellar performance. He effortlessly nails all of these little nuances that give the character of Jerico a very real appearance. I’m not joking when I say that his portrayal of Jerico in Criminal is easily the best (or at least my favourite) performance Kevin Costner has delivered in a long time.

It wasn’t just Kevin Costner who did a good job in the film either, Criminal had an absolutely star-studded cast. To name them all would be a chore but a few star players would be Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman, both of which did very well in their respective roles. Ryan Reynolds did a good job as well, but he was only really in the movie for the first 5 or so minutes. Gal Gadot, who plays Bill popes wife, actually managed to surprise me as well. I have only really seen her in two films (Triple 9 and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of the annoyingly long title), neither of which really convinced me of her acting ability. That’s why I was actually surprised to have her deliver a pretty good performance in Criminal. Sure she isn’t in the movie a whole lot, but when she is she holds her own.

One thing I also want to congratulate Criminal on is the fact that it didn’t get bogged down in its own plot. Let’s face it, a hacker threatening to destroy the USA with his hacking powers is a plot that is played out by this point. Of course I groaned when it was first introduced in Criminal, but the film barely even focused on it. It was more of an incidental plot-point, rather than a crutch for the film to hobble along with. Criminal had quite a few great action scenes but it was really more of a thriller than an action movie. Now that I come to think of it, it actually had a few dramatic elements to it as well, so really I would say that Criminal is a well-rounded film.

Overall Criminal was a very enjoyable movie. With a plot that was like The Fugitive meets Forrest Gump, and acting that was pretty stellar, Criminal is a great example of how to balance story elements.

I give Criminal an A

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