Let us start off with a joke deserving of the film, wherein the only crooks in the uninspired action fare Criminal are the ones who made it.
The film has earned nothing better than that easy punchline.
At least Ryan Reynolds gets out early. He stars briefly in an ensemble cast of talented, worthy actors who are clearly in the service of someone or something, forced to tell a ridiculous tale of a convict-turned-savoir enlisted to help save the world from an anarchist with computer skills.
This self-serious, utterly absurd piece of cinema from Ariel Vromen – spoiler alert – kills off the ever-charming Mr. Reynolds early on, presumably sparing him from enduring the madness to follow. He’s CIA Agent Bill Pope, and his death propels the entire point of the film, which is to have a leading doctor (Tommy Lee Jones) utilize Pope’s important memory, still active I guess, by implanting it into the empty mind of a troubled criminal (Kevin Costner), much to the concern of some reactionary government agents in Gary Oldman, who yells a lot, and Alice Eve, who I think the writers consistently forgot was around.
Costner is Jericho, who we are told is one of the most vicious criminals ever in part because he completely lacks emotion and morals, so it shouldn’t really come as any surprise when we don’t like him or root for him to succeed. Except that that’s what the film wants us to do; apparently the operation works, and Jericho starts to develop some memories and feelings, only they are that of Pope, including affection for his wife (Gal Gadot, also underused, typically) and his daughter.
Criminal fearlessly, stubbornly does what it wants with reckless abandon, however cringe-inducing, eye-rolling, and idiotically convenient. Jericho predictably escapes custody, visits Pope’s family, tries to stop this anarchist he was programmed to do, and kills a lot of people, while the government is always a bit behind, and everyone acts in accordance to whatever makes the film think it’s more compelling.
Sure, Jericho visits the Pope household once, so why would the police keep an eye on it when he returns a second time? And why does it matter than Jericho kills a slew of police officers or innocent bystanders? And why in the hell does the widowed Pope become so enamoured with Jericho and his creepy knowledge of her intimate life, especially after he sneaks into her bed and ties her up? Don’t bother thinking.
It can be argued that this film is so bad, so nondescript and meaningless that it shouldn’t be offensive. But this is exactly the type of movie we should riot against. Not just one that wastes talents and energy, that glorifies mindless violence and bloodshed, but also a film that rehashes film stereotypes and gender roles. Criminal is a dumb movie, but a movie that gets made every year, and always by a man, and it follows the same beats, towards the same ending.
When we talk about diversity, it’s not just big blockbusters and Oscar-worthy projects: it’s silly, incomprehensible stuff too that maybe have something the least bit interesting or novel done with it if a different view is entertained.
Or maybe this is just how far your mind wanders when you’re watching something so dull, so predictable, and so disingenuous in it’s promise of Ryan Reynolds.
- Genre: Action, Thriller
- Release Date: 4/15/2016
- Directed by: Ariel Vromen
- Starring: Alice Eve, Gal Gadot, Gary Oldman, Kevin Costner, Michael Pitt, Ryan Reynolds, Tommy Lee Jones
- Produced by: Boaz Davidson, Chris Bender, Christa Campbell, Mark Gill
- Written by: David Weisberg, Douglas Cook
- Studio: Lionsgate