Let’s get one thing clear about this movie. At the very least, Criminal has an interesting premise. When CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is killed in action, his superior Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) tries to do everything he can to find out everything Pope knew before his death. With a Spanish anarchist threatening mass extermination of all government bodies, Wells seeks out Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones,) who theorizes a way to retrieve Pope’s memories by inserting them into convict Jericho (Kevin Costner). A movie about someone’s brain constantly clashing against two personalities, one from a man gone wrong and one from an upstanding agent, sounds like a great idea. There’s just one problem, it’s boring.
Criminal should be more than capable of toting the interesting, albeit silly, premise by at least giving us some good performances within an action heavy suspense drama, but none of those aspects appear to shine whatsoever. Kevin Costner easily provides the best performance in the entire movie, more so because he appears to be having fun with the role. Everyone else, on the other hand, are serviceable at best. Don’t get me wrong, I love actors like Ryan Reynolds and Tommy Lee Johns, but the characters they’re given to work with are so one-dimensional and uninteresting, that just about any other Hollywood actor could have filled the parts. Aside from Costner, no one else provides anything of their own personal style to make the role their own. Everyone from Oldman to Jones just come across as though they took their parts for the paycheck alone. Their performances are by no means mediocre, but they just don’t do enough with themselves to make their involvement with the movie necessary.
As mentioned before, for a film that should be action driven and tense, Criminal only comes off as boring and drawn out. To my recollection, there were only about three action scenes throughout the film’s run. The airport battle towards the climax was admittedly one of the better parts of the entire movie, as we get to see Costner finally kick around some bad guys. However, the other couple action sequences were so brief and uninspired you’d more than likely have a difficult time feeling anything but apathy and disinterest.
What feels the worst offense of all, on the other hand, is that for a premise that should at least make some kind of sense, this entire film doesn’t make any sense. When it comes to certain fantastical films like Inception, The Jungle Book, and even Criminal, there’s always going to be that suspension of disbelief. That little thought process where we have to suspend questions on the plausibility of certain things, and enjoy the piece for what it is. Yet, even with said suspension, every narrative has to make some kind of real world sense, otherwise nobody will relate to it. Criminal is one of those instances where suspension of disbelief just isn’t enough to cover the glaringly bad narrative choices. Why on Earth would anyone pick a known murdering psychopath with a mental handicap to potentially harbor secret government information? Worse still is that once Costner’s character escapes, guess what he does first? Murders innocent people of course! After all, we’re supposed to be rooting for him as a sort of anti-hero, and what better way to signal such support by taking someone you just crashed your car into, throwing them into said destroyed car, and lighting it up to explode?
There’s also a sub plot involving Jericho meeting the deceased agent’s wife, Jill Pope (Gal Gadot,) that varies from uncomfortably morbid to laughably silly. Thanks to the implanted memories, he’s able to access her home with ease, tie her up, rob the family and leave. Later on, she forgives him way too easily once it’s revealed he has her dead husband’s memories. Sure, she points a gun at him a few times, but never pulls the trigger. I just kept urging her to kill him already so the movie would finally end.
When it’s all said and done, Criminal is a technically well shot movie with some interesting ideas behind it, but the execution is so bland and messy that nothing ever truly works. Kevin Costner may be having fun with the role, and the recognizable names might trick you into believing this is something worthwhile, but there’s very little here that would warrant spending a dime on seeing it in theaters. Believe me when I say that this film is just going to be one of those late night movies you watch out of boredom and forget just as quickly. After all, for a film that advertises itself as a suspenseful agent drama, Criminal sure does have a massive lack of suspense and drama.