‘Criminal’: Complex, but has strong performances (IANS Review, Rating: **)

Film: “Criminal”; Director: Ariel Vromen; Cast: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Alice Eve, Gal Gadot, Michael Pitt, Jordi Molla, Antje Traue, Scott Adkins, Amaury Nolasco, Danny Webb, Colin Salmon, Lara DeCaro and Jodi Molla; Rating: **

“Criminal” is a sci-fi terrorist drama designed in an obsolete fashion and despite its A-lister cast, the film lacks real substance or disposition.

Set in London, the film begins on a compelling note, with Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds), a CIA agent, stashing away a bounty of $10 million, and a new identity for the Dutch hacker, Jan Stroop (Michael Pitt), who is also known as “the Dutchman” in exchange of a getaway programme that would avert untold destruction, as he is the only man who knows how to save the world from the nuclear war.

Unfortunately, Pope is ambushed and killed by the gang members of Xavier Heimbahl (Jodi Molla), a crazy Spanish businessman-turned anarchist who has vowed to destroy the world.

But for Pope’s bureau chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman), Pope’s death is not a major issue, for he has conserved Pope’s neurons. He summons Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones), a brilliant neurosurgeon, to transfer the dead CIA operative’s memories from one brain to another.

As it turns out, the only person that Dr. Franks is willing to do the procedure on is Jericho Stewartt (Kevin Costner), an imprisoned psychopathic killer whose childhood injury to his frontal lobes makes him a perfect guinea pig for the experiment.

The plot gets complexed thereafter and how Jericho fares in the experiment, forms the crux of the narration.

The actors keep you glued to the screen with their performances. The film is Kevin Costner’s canvas and he leaves an indelible mark as Jericho, the criminal. He exhibits a fairly authentic portrayal of a heartless criminal, who over a period of time, turns sensitive. This could be a standard character arch, but how he essays it with subtle nuances, is a treat to watch.

Ryan Reynolds is barely in the film as Bill Pope, but he is etched in your memory because of the constant flashes that appear in Jericho’s mind.

Gal Gadot as Jill, Bill’s wife and Lara DeCaro as her daughter Emma, are exceptional. Gary Oldman, Tom Lee Jones and Jodi Molla have some onscreen moments.

On the directorial front, the opening sequence of the film feels like a part of the Bourne franchise with its espionage, chases, and thrill sequences. But gradually as the film rolls out, it never matches the heights of its opening. The second act drags immensely.

The script, written by Douglas S. Cook and David Weisberg, is so forcefully obtuse, that it never attracts you to what is at stake, making the goings-on, seem absurd and vague. Hence, the characters and their motives seem too remote to invest in.

Overall, “Criminal” is flawed due to its own complications making it a disappointing fare.



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