Criminal (2016)

brooke I’m still not sure why we saw this movie.

casey I’m imagining the pitch meeting for Criminal. Someone opens, “What if we made a movie like the ridiculous 90s action movies everybody used to love?” And then someone else chimed in, “Great idea! But let’s be sure to drain it of every ounce of fun and levity!”

brooke More than once I asked myself if I’d seen it before. It felt wrong to watch it in a theater instead of on afternoon HBO.

casey Quick recap: Criminal tells the story of murderous sociopath, Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), who’s taken from prison by CIA chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) and scientist Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones). Then, [deep breath] Franks uses science magic to implant Jericho with the memories of a recently assassinated CIA agent in order to assist Wells in locating a hacker called The Dutchman, who has gained a secret backdoor into the entire (!) American military network and is also being pursued by Spanish anarchist and Machiavellian supervillain Xavier Heimdahl, who plans to use the backdoor to initiate nuclear war between the US and Russia. Phew.

brooke And the movie is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds, but overall it feels like every other movie where protagonist with personal issues has to tackle a generic foreign antagonist.

casey It’s got a stable of big name, slightly over the hill actors with the dumbest character names this side of Pacific Rim in a ludicrous mind-swapping spy plot. Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t seem to understand how inherently silly that is. For the majority of its runtime, Criminal is ponderous and heavy, gory but not remotely goofy. Costner growls and stabs his way through a dull redemption arc as Jericho struggles to assimilate the traits of the good hearted CIA agent sharing his brain. Then there are the uncomfortable and overlong scenes with the agent’s former wife (Gal Gadot, doing the best she can) and kid.

brooke ughhhhh the family scenes are all forced and out of place. They’re supposed to be the emotional heart of the film, but they’re so flat. I was never convinced that Gadot’s character could ever regard the blundering Jericho with anything but disgust.

casey Meanwhile, Oldman blusters and stammers through what’s basically an angry police chief role that makes no sense, and Jones just looks embarrassed to be there. The plot is forgettable, and the villain barely registers despite the usual array of generic godlike hacker skills. Eventually the movie wakes up in its climactic scenes and embraces its inner stupidity with some fun action beats. But it’s too little, too late. I don’t mean it as an insult to say that Criminal would’ve been much better if it had been made ten years ago by Michael Bay. It’s got a great premise for a bad movie, but instead it’s something worse: a boring movie.

brooke Honestly, I think the only good part was how it reminded me how far film has come. Twenty years ago, it might’ve more popular, but today we (literally) aren’t buying it. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone, and I have zero desire to watch it again.

casey I wish there were more original, R-rated medium budget action movies like Criminal. Just…you know, better.


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