Despite a strong (albeit utterly unhinged) performance from Kevin Costner, Criminal‘s convoluted and underdeveloped plot make for what can only be described as an incredibly boring, yet more importantly, disappointing film to watch.
Best known for his mildly received 2012 biographical crime thriller The Iceman, Ariel Vroman’s Criminal sees Kevin Costner star as Jericho Stewart, an emotionally retarded (you guessed it) criminal, who is currently doing hard time for a series of violent assaults. Meanwhile, CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) has just been killed in action, leaving his supervisor Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) clueless as to where Pope hid both a large amount of money, as well as the launch codes for every nuke and missile in the USA.
Left with no other apparent option, Wells naturally decides that the best course of action is to extract Pope’s memories, and transfer them to the total nobody that is, Jericho Stewart. Through the help of Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones), the operation is successfully performed, leaving Jericho with the mindset of two people. Before Quaker is able to extract the information he needs however, Jericho breaks free, leading both the CIA, as well other interested parties, on a wild goose chase to the location of what could spell out the end of the world as we know it…
It has to be mentioned right from the start that the plot of this film constantly teeters between varying levels of ludicrousness and ultimately, plain stupidity. Aiming to appeal to those who enjoy movies in the vain of the Bourne series and practically every single film starring Steven Seagal, Criminal sets itself up to be a culmination of both the action/thriller and science fiction genre. However, its inability to strike a perfect balance between the two instead leaves the film (and consequently the audience) constantly trying to figure out just how seriously both the director and actors involved, are taking the film on a whole.
This additionally amounts to why Criminal is also such a large disappointment. If it had chosen to only follow the path of say, the sci-fi genre, the film could have been a genuinely intriguing mystery that would not have had to pad the run time with footage of Kevin Costner stealing kebabs or pointless Piers Morgan cameos. Instead however, the talent of the cast is squandered through their attempts in trying to appease to two totally different audience types.
The casting of the film is also another point of contention. Ryan Reynolds for one, is only in the film for 15 minutes, despite being pushed as one of Criminal’s main stars. While this is most likely due to his incredible success in Deadpool, it’s still totally misleading and an additional disappointment in the films line up of many. In regards to the acting on display throughout however, it is generally sub-par on the whole. Both Gary Oldman and Gal Gadot handle their roles with an expected finesse, illustrating their attempts in at least trying to engage with the audience. The same can’t be said for Tommy Lee Jones though, who at this point in his career, seems to be phoning in the majority of his performances. As the lead however, Kevin Costner brings his best (and worst) to the table, making his performance in the film, its only redeeming factor.
It’s not all that hard to visualize what went wrong when Criminal transitioned from its script to the screen. The dialogue for one is clunky, containing a variety of terrible one-liners and cringe-worthy clichés that wouldn’t have even been great in a classic 80’s Schwarzenegger film. The acting, too, leaves much to be desired, especially when the caliber of the ensemble cast on a whole is considered. Even with Ariel Vroman’s slick directorial skills, Criminal still amounts to arguably one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Criminal is ultimately, criminally bad.
Review Score: ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)
Criminal hits DVD and Blu-Ray in Australia on the 31st August.