Criminal (2016)

  • Time: 113 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Drama
  • Director: Ariel Vromen
  • Cast: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot


Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent on a mission in Germany tracking down a shadowy hacker nicknamed “The Dutchman.” When he gets mysteriously ambushed and killed, an experimental procedure is used to transfer his memories into dangerous ex-convict Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner). When he wakes up with the CIA agent’s memories, his mission is to find The Dutchman and eliminate him before the hacker launches ICBM’s and starts World War III. But complications soon arise and the mission turns personal.


  • Criminal has delivered yet another, reiteration of a some-what played out storyline. While trying to fulfill his mission objective and avoid enemy forces Ryan Reynolds is put to a halt. Leaving valuable information behind the C.I.A is left with the “task” of trying to obtain this information.. at any means necessary.

    From Summit Entertainment. The memories and skills of a CIA agent are implanted into the brain of a dangerous criminal in order to stop an international terrorist.

    Movies can have a notorious stigma of unsatisfyingly obvious and cliche movie plots. The reward factor for successfully executing an authentic yet original movie plot- or in this case twisting it and making it your own- is priceless; ultimately further emerging you into the film.. Criminal does that to an extent.

    Being a lover of neuroscience – somewhat of a central theme for the film- the movie does, with great respect, give a realistic approach to a complex subject. Effectively avoiding any notion of sci-fi, it innately breaks down how and why some of the scenes are possible. Something I had to pay clear homage to.

    Unfortunately the legs in which the film stood on heavily relied on the common theme of trying to extract information from a corpse, in this case dead operative. The too stale for many, meshed with the generic plot just didn’t hold under scrutiny.

    Notably, individual performances were great nonetheless. This is by far, one of, if not the best Kevin Costner performance I have seen in a very long time. The revitalizing energy as well as dominance displayed was second to none. Portraying a high level psychopath, he was at times almost completely unrecognizable. He flawlessly managed to code switch himself into this roll and onto the big screen. Gary Oldman, fantastic as usual, played a high status intelligence officer for the C.I.A. Somewhat harmonic with Tommy Lees performance, this coincided beautifully, and almost synonymously around Kevin Costner’s brilliance.

    All in all the performances was the shining light of the film, the cast lived up to their expectations, but unfortunately the movie didn’t, Making it a disappointing and somewhat anticlimactic watch.

  • Here are a few observations I’ve made about some actors/actresses in 2016’s Criminal (my latest review). OK, let’s begin: Kevin Costner with his meager dialogue readings, grumbles, growls, and grunts. Gary Oldman with his umpteenth American accent, gets ticked off and yells customarily. Tommy Lee Jones who fades in and out of the film, talks fast and doesn’t really get to emote. The prepossessing Alice Eve looks sedated while really phoning in her performance and finally, Ryan Reynolds is well, Ryan Reynolds. Now is Criminal the reunion-like sequel to Oliver Stone’s JFK (Oldman, Costner, and Jones in the same flick together)? No, not really. This is a nastily violent, techy thriller that’s edited tightly, preposterous, and flows nicely. For better or worse, Criminal is passable entertainment despite a premise that is seemingly “on parole” (ha-ha). And Costner who looks so far gone from trying to get in the Academy’s good graces (remember Dances with Wolves from 25+ years ago?), bulks up here all the while trying to become a successor to Liam Neeson (oh my, the badass, senior antihero circuit is ever expanding).

    Filmed primarily in London, England and distributed by Summit Entertainment, Criminal on the surface, projects itself to be another straight-to-video endeavor. There’s its poster channeling 2015’s Extraction (released only on DVD) and then there’s the generic title (which feels a little hackneyed). Don’t be fooled though, this is a movie that’s above the limited release muck. The production values are stronger and director Ariel Vromen (The Iceman) seems to know what he’s doing with the camera. Yeah Criminal does promote itself as action for the bloody, horror film host. And yes, its script, musical score, nullified computer speak, and slick look come off as rather stock at times. Here’s the thing however: Criminal does deserve a true, theatrical release (despite what I initially thought). Just imagine something above Costner’s previous 3 Days to Kill and slightly below Pierce Brosnan’s The November Man. Not half bad as far as I’m concerned.

    The story is sort of unoriginal yet somehow someway, an audience member could be distracted from that notion. Jericho Stewart (Costner) is a despicable man, a convict with a frontal lobe disorder. As the film tells us, “he has no impulse control, he’s unable to calculate the consequences of his actions, and he has a total lack of empathy for anybody or anything.” Because of his condition, Jericho has been tapped to be an experiment for the CIA. Supervisor Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) with the help of Dr. Mahal Franks (played by Tommy Lee Jones), wants to infuse the memory implants of a dead agent (Ryan Reynolds as Bill Pope) into Stewart’s brain. This will enable Costner’s Stewart to find the location of a computer hacker known as ‘the Dutchman’ (played by Micheal Pitt). Said ‘Dutchman’ has the ability to create a wormhole bent on protecting the world’s nuclear defense codes. This diegesis is all made simple by Vromen’s gruesome, penchant for street-style brutality and Costner’s free-based arrogance (he likes to play these types of characters a lot). Look for a scene where Jericho uses a sharp part of a police vehicle to rip a cop’s neck open. Also, look for another scene where Costner’s Jericho beats a female malefactor with a disassembled lamp. Talk about Antoine Fuqua kitsch that’s truly not for the kiddies. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

    Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

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  • One would think that mixing Frankenstein, Freaky Friday and Flowers for Algernon would result in something more inspired and intriguing than the insipid and overwrought cauldron of boredom that is Criminal.

    Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA operative in the midst of a mission to deliver a duffel bag full of money to a squirrelly hacker nicknamed “The Dutchman” (Michael Pitt) in exchange for the missile launching technology in his possession. Pope’s operation is thwarted by Spanish anarchist Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Mollà), who kills Pope when he fails to share his knowledge of the Dutchman’s whereabouts. All would seem lost for CIA bureau chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) save for an experimental memory program devised by Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones).

    Dr. Franks’ program allows for the transfer of memories from one brain to another. Though tests have been successful in animals, human trials have not yet been conducted. Wells is determined to track down the Dutchman, whose location only Pope knew, before Heimdahl gets to him first and carries out a plan to overthrow governments around the world. Wells believes that Franks’ procedure will allow him to extract that valuable information. For some reason, the only viable human candidate to receive the transfer is lifetime criminal and sociopath Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), whose childhood brain trauma apparently makes him more conducive to such a transfer of highly classified information.

    Oldman shouts a lot during the film (to be fair, so does Mollà) but never more so than during the post-op scene where he is yelling at Jericho to remember, remember, remember. Oldman’s performance, if one can call a display of lung power a performance, is so over-the-top that it becomes both ridiculous and embarrassing. Jones, meanwhile, is too weary for such histrionics, opting instead to pipe in with a line or two from the sidelines as an escaped Jericho is unleashed on the streets of London, where he clashes with some of the most painfully stock characters ever seen.

    Along the way, he’s sidelined by increasingly frequent memory flashes of Pope’s wife Jill (Gal Gadot) and daughter Emma (Lara Decaro). Pope’s personality begins to imprint itself upon Jericho, who suddenly finds himself speaking perfect French and feeling all the feels. The scenes between Costner and Gadot as Jericho connects with Jill and Emma convey the more human elements of the farfetched plot. Despite the good work by both actors, their efforts are buried beneath the limited screenplay by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg and the even more limited direction by Ariel Vromen.

    The bombast of the action sequences may please diehard fans of the genre, but it’s fourth-rate Bourne at best. The quick cutting and handheld cameras only add to the overall slackness of the movie.

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  • “I don’t remember anything, asshole. You’re confusing me with someone else.”

    Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner) is a danger to society. He’s locked up in a maximum-security prison as a chained wild beast. An unruly person without feelings. A psychopathic person who doesn’t even know the difference between right and wrong (“You can’t punish someone who doesn’t know he did something wrong”). And this thanks to his mother’s friend, who found out that he wasn’t the father, and as a response flung him out of the window of the car. The result was a frontal lobe syndrome, making him the suitable candidate to inherit the memory of CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds), who was electrocuted to death during a mission. And this because the memory of Pope is full of information necessary to locate the Dutch hacker Jan Strook (Michael Pitt), also known as the The Dutchman, before he sells his sophisticated software to a crazy anarchist or the Russians. Software that could lead to a global nuclear war and total chaos.

    Well, it doesn’t sound very plausible. And the film is packed with completely absurd idiocies such as setting up a GPS remotely and manipulating surveillance images in such a way that the secret service is chasing the wrong person. I always skipped this film because of the presence of Kevin Costner. In hindsight, I still ask myself how in God’s name they got the idea to ask him. I associate Costner with other films where he’s dancing with wolves, protecting a pop singer as a bodyguard and floating on a vast ocean as a kind of Mad Max. Jerico Stewart is a character Costner never played before, I think. But I must admit that he did it amazingly well. The aggression Jericho emanates and his violent behavior was played convincingly by Costner. His performance during the appropriation of a van (the owners are beaten up thoroughly), the confrontation with the widow (Gal Gadot) or the harassing language he uses against a pharmacist are some examples. The clash between Jericho’s cheeky personality and Pope’s more sophisticated behavior created some humorous scenes.

    For a moment it reminded me of “The Bourne identity”. Both movies are about someone going through a personality crisis, not knowing who he is, what goal he has and what it’s all about. Jerico is a loose object who runs around like a bull in a china shop, making downtown London unsafe. The only thing he’s concentrating on, is the lost bag full of money. The story itself isn’t really ingenious and will cause some head shaking when watching it. What remains is a pure spy action movie with quite some violence in it.

    Besides Costner there are some other heavyweights from Hollywood summoned for this film. There’s also Tommy Lee Jones who takes care of the character Dr. Frank. All in all, this part isn’t really meaningful and apparently he participated reluctantly, judging by the expression on his face (or is this a standard expression?). Fact is that the number of wrinkles on his face is growing steadily. Then you have Gary Oldman as chief Quaker Wells. A similar character as Oldman played in “Batman”, except that Quaker is more stupid and insensible. The most disappointing role was the one from Michael Pitt. He didn’t sound like a Dutch hacker. This isn’t a performance that’ll stay in memory forever as the one he did in “I Origins” and “Rob the Mob”. And finally Ryan “Deadpool” Reynolds who got the shortest role he ever had in his entire career.

    Even though the film lacks credibility, the subject is a bit over the top and they couldn’t make up their mind if it was going to be a SF or a pure action film, this film still managed to surprise me pleasantly. I wasn’t bored for a minute. But then again, probably I won’t remember much of it anymore in a month or so. Or somebody could regenerate the memory in a similar manner. But that’s highly unlikely, I guess.

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  • Mixing medical technology with espionage may not be a novel idea but in the hands of writers Douglas Cook and David Weisberg and director Ariel Vromen the marriage produces a nonstop action film that ranks up there with the best of them to appeal to the audience need for grit. The very solid cast makes it happen and keeps our attention from square one.

    Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent on a mission in London tracking down a shadowy hacker nicknamed “The Dutchman” (Michael Pitt). When he gets mysteriously ambushed and killed, an experimental procedure performed by Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) is used to transfer his memories into dangerous ex-convict Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner). When he wakes up with the CIA agent’s memories, Jericho’s mission is to find The Dutchman and eliminate him before the hacker launches ICBM’s and starts World War III. But complications soon arise and the mission turns personal. Gary Oldman plays Quaker Wells, the man obsessed by his own manipulations to save the world from the enemy – including a mastermind Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Mollà) – with the help of Jill Pope (Bill’s widow) played by newcomer Gal Gadot, and Marta Lynch (Alice Eve) et al.

    This is a noisy but very fast paced action film with a brain – the script makes sense (memory transplantation as a means of saving the experience of a deceased CIA operative). One of the aspects of the memory transplantation is the fact that it gives the ‘man without feeling’ Jericho the ability to feel and love – and that saves the film.

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