The new Kevin Costner movie “Criminal” is crying out for a subtitle. “Criminal” is such a drab, nondescript name. It doesn’t tell you anything about the movie or grab the eye. How about “Criminal: How a Psychopath Found Redemption and Revenge.” It’s grabby and sums up everything you need to know about this deeply silly movie.
The movie begins with a cameo by everybody’s favourite Canadian Ryan Reynolds as Bill Pope, an undercover intelligence officer for the CIA. He alone knows the location of Jan Stroop, a computer whiz (Michael Pitt) who has hacked into the US’s military computers and now controls the world’s fate. The CIA desperately wants to find Pope and Stroop but unfortunately evil-doer and all round bad guy Hagbardaka Heimbahl (Jordi Mollà) got to Pope first. After some very unpleasant back-and-forth the steel jawed agent refuses to give up any information and is left for dead.
Here’s where it gets weird. CIA mucky-muck Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) finds the grievously wounded Pope and with a ‘never say die’ attitude keeps the man alive long enough so scientist Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) can transplant the comatose CIA agent’s memories into the mind of another person. “Can you or can’t you transport memories from one live mammal to another?”
Here’s where it gets weirder. In their infinite wisdom the CIA chooses death-row psychopath Jericho Stewart (Costner) as the memory recipient. “He does not understand society or how people are supposed to behave,” says Wells. Perfect. What could go wrong? Jericho must come to grips with the two personalities swirling around his brain—“It’s like my skull is being crushed from the inside,” he says.—as he slowly develops emotions and enough awareness to help and not hinder law enforcement in their search for Stroop.
By the time Pope’s daughter (Lara Decaro) teaches Jericho to play Christmas carols on piano “Criminal’s” cheese factor needle is bouncing uncontrollably into the red.
Remember the face-transplant surgery movie “Face/Off”? It was a silly movie, but at least it made sense in its own oddball way. Unlike the face swap film, however, “Criminal” has no internal logic. Things happen simply because the story requires them to happen and not because they make sense. The leaps of faith required to buy into “Criminal’s” story would give Evel Knievel vertigo. Suspension of disbelief is fine, and a time-honoured way of enjoying a movie, but you have to care about the story and characters in order to go along for the ride. Unfortunately not even this group of old pros can elevate this material.
When Jericho appears to develop feelings for Pope’s wife Jill (Gal “Wonder Women” Gadot) he expresses himself with the most unintentionally funny line of the year. “I know what that ‘love’ word is supposed to mean but…” It’s straight out of a b-movie, a b-movie that should be called “Criminal: How a Psychopath Found Redemption and Revenge.”