Starring Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Alive Eve, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, “Criminal” is one of those spare genre films that boasts a very talented cast but involves a convoluted narrative that ultimately creates a wasted opportunity that most won't remember. It’s the kind of film that you’ll see on Netflix somewhere down the road and wonder why it wasn’t more popular.
When CIA agent Bill Pope (Reynolds) is killed in action while on an important mission, his memories and skills are implanted into a rough, dangerous criminal, Jericho Stewart (Costner), so that Jericho can complete Pope’s assignment. In the process, Jericho, who is a comical, vulgar, ruthless convict, begins to experience some of Pope’s feelings and emotions, and becomes obligated to protect Pope’s widowed wife and daughter by finishing what Pope started.
The film starts out somewhat confusing, and after Pope’s mind is transferred to Stewart you’re not really sure who’s in the driver’s seat. After sometime, it’s clear that Stewart is still Stewart, but he experiences Pope’s memories, feelings, knowledge, etc., with major headaches as a side effect. The idea of a memory swap isn’t a new one for storytelling, but although the concept may have potential for specific genre enthusiasts, the story here is filled with holes and generic material typical of a quasi sci-fi action thriller.
In my opinion, the best part about this film is Kevin Costner, whose role feels like a mix between Sean Connery’s character in “The Rock”, an ex con who the government asks for help, and Liam Neeson’s “Taken” character who is an unstoppable force on a path to solve a problem. Costner’s Jericho Stewart is only made smarter by Pope’s CIA training and spends the majority of the movie wondering the city of London while beating up everyone in his way. Costner’s character also provides most of the comic relief and is quite amusing to watch.
In very peculiar fashion, Ryan Reynolds was cast as Bill Pope, who we see for mire minutes in the film. Why the filmmakers decided to cast someone as known and talented as him for a role so small and brief is beyond me, but when taking a look at the rest of the cast and their roles, I suppose it’s no surprise Reynolds was given the role. Unfortunately, the efforts of this star powered cast are not enough to overshadow other issues the film presents.
“Criminal” is one of those unknown films that an average movie watcher comes across on Netflix or another service one day, sees the cast, wonders why they have never heard of it, and assumes it must be worth watching. It’s not until they watch the film that they realize why they didn’t hear a peep about it when it was released. These films exist more than one might think and not all are a total loss if you’re someone that enjoys specific genre pieces.
Bottom line, the film has an all-star cast, violent and thrilling action, and a fair amount of humor, but something about the story and execution feels off, not put together correctly or explained well enough. The concept appears to be interesting enough, but too many times it seems like the filmmakers for whatever reason believe that with a good cast, they don’t have to invest as much in other areas, which is unfortunate for the final product.
“Criminal” is rated R for strong violence and language throughout. Running time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.