Criminal online movie review - "Criminal" isn't a terrible movie; it's just a stupid movie.
Before I get on with my energetic mockery of "Criminal" (R, 1:53), I'd like to tell you about the opening scene ? one of the film's few which isn't cringe-worthy: Knowing that a heroic character is about to be killed can be tense.
You know he's going to die soon because that's made clear in the movie's theatrical trailer and sets up the whole plot, but you don't know how it's going to happen (and I'm not going to spoil it). As the character careens from one dangerous situation to the next, you feel like the director is playing a game of Jenga with the unfortunate character's life ? and your emotions. It's too bad that the script by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg (who co-wrote 1996's "The Rock") and the direction by Ariel Vromen (who made 2012's criminally underseen contract killer biopic "Iceman", with Michael Shannon) didn't make this entire film as smart as its beginning.
When Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds), an American CIA agent stationed in London is killed, Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman), the CIA's London Station Chief, goes into a bit of a panic. There's a Spanish anarchist with the (odd) name Hagbardaka Heimbahl (Jordi Mollà) out there and he wants to decimate the capital cities of major world powers so he can show (what's left of) the world how (what's left of) the world should properly be governed. (Think, Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders on crack.) When Hamhock (sorry? Heimbahl) calmly explains his idea in an ordinary-sounding TV interview, all he needs is the cooperation of his favorite missing computer hacker. But the CIA wants the hacker too.
Before he stopped breathing, Pope was trying to secure a computer program called "Wormhole", which fits on a flash drive and can control the U.S. military's worldwide arsenal of missiles. Pope was on his way to meet Jan Stroop (Michael Pitt), who calls himself "The Dutchman" (a VERY safe and secure on-line name for a Dutch computer hacker). Only Pope knows where The Dutchman is, so with Pope dead, the CIA is SOL (Seemingly Out of Luck). But hold on! Pope's not REALLY dead, he is just most nearly dead.
There's still brain activity! There's also an American scientist named Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) who has successfully transferred memories from one mammal to another and thinks his process can work the same way on humans! There's a chance to save Pope's memories! Oh, happy day! If only Franks had a suitable human host for what's left of Pope. Wait ? he does!! It's a good thing that the movie's title character, a dangerous, completely amoral prison inmate named Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), has an underdeveloped brain that would make the perfect "clean slate" on which to transfer Pope's memories! It's too bad that when Stewart wakes up after his major brain surgery, he cannot immediately recall the hacker's whereabouts. Oh, well. Rather than wait a little longer to see if Stewart will come up with this potentially world-saving information, Wells decides simply to have him killed. (Arrrrgh!) The movie's set-up may be ridiculous, but at least there are good guys to root for and bad guys to root against. However, most of these characters are wearing both white hats and black hats. Dr. Franks is a mild-mannered scientist who admits that he's years away from human trials, yet immediately agrees to operate on a human subject without Stewart's consent or even understanding of what is going on. Wells (ironically, the same last name as the scientist who put bionic parts into Steve Austin in TV's "The Six Million Dollar Man") is ostensibly trying to save lives, but tosses aside those who don't matter to him.
Hambone (Heimbahl. Whatever.) is willing to disregard the rights of millions of people who don't agree with him, but, hey, it's all about making the world great again, so it's okay. (He's just telling it like it is.) Hummelfigure has a henchman (excuse me, henchwoman) named Elsa Mueller (Antje Traue, rocking ginger locks) who is every bit as ruthless as Stewart, but she forgives and hugs her beloved homicidal maniac after he apologizes for a verbal outburst, so, she's kinda cool. The Dutchman has the power to destroy the whole world with his computer program, but he doesn't really want to. (That's why this highly irresponsible computer expert fled from that highly insane anarchist.) Stroop is willing to give Wormhole to the CIA... for a U.S. passport ? and $10 million. (But "it's not about the money".) Even though Costner's character is described (and shown in his prison cell) as a less cannibalistic, but more dangerous version of Hannibal Lecter, he behaves more like a spoiled child? albeit an extremely violent spoiled child. (Think the "Affluenza Teen", without the money, but with Rocky Balboa's fists and The Terminator's family values.) The only really decent people in this film are the Popes. (Sorry. Bad phrasing.) Bill, his erstwhile wife, now widow, Jill (Gal Gadot), and their sweet young daughter, Emma (Lara Decaro), are decent folks whose goodness rubs off on Stewart when they? um, get inside his head.
"Criminal" is not a terrible movie; it's just a stupid movie. Many political thrillers require Movie Fans to press the "I Believe" button, but I wore my button the --ck (heck) out in the film's first 20 minutes or so. Ignoring the story's silliness and plot holes, I actually enjoyed the film's action and its resolution, but that's not good enough. My advice? When "Criminal" is out on video, watch the trailer to remind you of the set-up, then start watching the movie at the DVD/Blu-ray chapter "The CIA Guy Tell His Thugs to 'Take Out the Trash', But the Criminal is Too Stupid to See What's Happening and Gets In the Agents' Car Anyway" (or whatever they end up titling that scene). Watching this entire movie should be illegal. "C"