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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 18, 2016

Criminal Movie Review: A High Concept Thriller That Turns Into A Convoluted Mess

WE HAD such high hopes for “Criminal” as it’s the comeback film of Kevin Costner in a lead role after playing nothing but supporting roles lately, like being the foster dad of Superman. We still remember him in “No Way Out” and “The Bodyguard” where he played the leads. But “Criminal” turns out to be such a convoluted mess and truth to tell, he is largely wasted here.

It starts with Ryan Reynolds as a CIA agent in London who is trying to evade a group of terrorists out to get him. Ryan apparently accepted this short guest role for bread tripping as it certainly won’t help forward his career after the huge box office success of his last solo flick, “Deadpool”. He ends up dead but the CIA boss (Gary Oldman) needs vital information embedded in his brain so they contact a doctor (Tommy Lee Jones) who has invented a mind-swapping procedure to transfer the memories of Ryan to that of a sociopath convict named Jericho (Kevin). This criminal has frontal lobe injury that made him incapable of having a moral sense or conscience, which makes him the perfect recipient of a new set of memories. Kevin’s role here reminds us of his serial killer character in “Mr. Brooks”.

It’s an experimental operation previously done only on mice, so they’re not sure if it would really work on Kevin. His mission is to locate the cyber criminal called Dutchman (Michael Pitt), a computer whiz who has hacked American nuclear codes and is now selling them to a terrorist group headed by a Spanish anarchist (Jordi Molla), who believes it’s best to blow up all foreign governments so the world can start all over again on a clean new slate.

The movie is a high concept thriller with an absurd but admittedly very compelling main situation. The problem is that the uninspired direction of Ariel Vromen, who takes his sweet, sweet time in forwarding the narrative without any style or wit. He makes the pacing so slow that it often drags, resulting into many “laylay” and “boringa” moments. If Luc Besson handled this project, maybe it would have been more exciting as he usually cooks up better staged action set pieces.

Kevin tries his best but he can only do so much for a vastly underwritten and basically unsympathetic character. He starts as a very violent criminal who mauls people without any reason, like what he did to a repairman whose van he steals in front of stunned customers in a fast food stand. But he suddenly develops a conscience when he meets Ryan’s widow (the new Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, who registers well in a supporting role) and daughter.

Gary Oldman rants and raves and yells in his role as the CIA London chief who is trying to wake Kevin up in the hospital. The usually competent cast is actually wasted in this tedious movie. Even Tommy Lee Jones with his leathery and weather-beaten face fails to be effective as the quiet doctor and he just looks so tired and resigned. He can give people new brains and maybe he should start with the people who made this cumbersome movie. The title is actually apt, though, as the movie is a criminal waste of good talent. This could be disastrous for Kevin like his past flops, “Waterworld” and “The Postman”. We actually like him better when he’s dancing with wolves.