Story by Adam Winn, Staff writer
While the new film “Criminal” does contain its fair share of commendable aspects, it takes an idea that’s been done several times and gives it a face-lift and a new name. The problem isn’t that the story is terrible because, with some script polishing, it had the potential to be a memorable addition to the action genre. Instead, it became a typical mediocre film that theatergoers wouldn’t give a second glance.
The plot tells the story of a CIA agent named Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) on a covert mission in London to track down a mysterious computer hacker nicknamed “The Dutchman.” After Pope is ambushed and murdered by a group of extremists also searching for the missing hacker, the CIA, led by agent Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman), hires Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones). Franks claims that he knows how to transfer the memories of a deceased person into the brain another living human.
The intelligence agency selects a man on death row, Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), to be the guinea pig for the operation. Stewart suffers from an extremely rare frontal lobe condition that prevents him from feeling any type of emotion. After the experiment proves successful at transferring all of Pope’s memories and secrets into Stewart’s head, he sets out to complete the original mission, while still maintaining a hidden agenda of his own.
After viewing the film, the audience may have a strong feeling of déjà vu. This story has plot points that are easily recognizable in past movies, such as “Face/Off” and “Self/less,” which also, coincidentally, star Reynolds.
It is not uncommon for directors to borrow ideas from a past film, but they should at least make it more entertaining so the audience doesn’t feel like they’re being cheated out of their money.
The first half-hour, the film is thoroughly engaging, with the plot introducing all of the primary characters and their motivations. Then, after the experiment takes place, the film starts to wane and never fully regains its momentum.
Despite having scenes jam-packed with brutality and violence, a lot of the action is extremely cliché and foreseeable. Police chases, missiles exploding, car wrecks, etc. It’s nearly impossible to watch a film in the action genre without seeing these repeated plot devices, but it would have been nice to see the scriptwriters try.
With a cast full of popular, veteran actors, it’s easy to guess that the acting was the best part about this flick. Costner gave a fantastic performance in the dual role of the convict-turned-agent. Even though their characters were underutilized, Oldman and Jones both gave exceptional performances.
Reynolds has a much smaller part than the rest of the cast. However, it was still enjoyable to see him act in a more serious role, compared to the comedic characters he typically portrays.
What’s encouraging is that if the viewer leaves their brain outside the theater, “Criminal” can be an entertaining experience, with scenes of intense savagery and solid acting. Just don’t go in expecting a thought-provoking experience or prepare to leave disappointed.