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Movie Review: "Criminal"

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J.–The only thing criminal about the movie “Criminal” is the fact that I spent an hour and 53 minutes on this R-rated roller coaster, only to check my watch over and over again. In the film, fallen CIA agent Bill Pope’s (Ryan Reynolds) memories are fused into the brain of Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a renowned Charles Manson lookalike with a “you hurt me, I hurt you worse” philosophy.
Reynolds generally plays witty characters in comedies, so it was interesting to see him play a more serious role for the short amount of screen time that his character sees in “Criminal.” Director Ariel Vromen provided plenty of close up shots between Pope and his wife (Gal Gadot), so people could get their fix of the attractive couple.
However, the main focal point of the movie is the emotionless “bad-ass” persona that Costner portrays. He is a-no nonsense, tough guy, who has a short fuse and no patience for anyone. For example, when someone says, “There’s a queue, sir,” Stewart answers, “Yeah, and I’m at the front of it, sugar puss.” He is behind most of the film’s violent scenes including one where a BMW catches fire and another where he matter-of-factly  states, “I’m taking your van,” before brutally beating all three of that van’s passengers and leaving them for dead.
When it came to scenes like this, I really had to keep reminding myself that this was a movie, as it was not even kind of believable that Kevin Costner was walking around murdering everyone in his path. If this were Costner in his younger days, maybe it would have been more credible.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Once Pope is murdered, Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) initiates the surgery that gives Stewart all of the memories belonging to the CIA agent. Wells is a very boisterous, in-your-face type of character for the whole movie, and it gets a bit tedious after a while. I was a bit surprised to see him take on this role, as the only role I have seen him in previously was Commissioner Gorden in the “Dark Knight” series, in which he is calm and rarely flustered.
Action movies usually are my preference, just for the special effects and violence that occur in the films. “Criminal,” with violence, tons of expletives, and expensive cars like Maserato and Mercedes-Benz (the budget must have been huge), certainly had no shortage in that regard. All of the gun scenes were very Hollywood-style and over-the-top productions, where Stewart takes his enemies out with little to no problems.
Makeup director Sally Alcott and Special Effects Director George Buckleton deserve a great amount of credit. There was one graphic scene in particular where a character is shot, and the audience can actually see the pieces of his head separate and blood splatter everywhere. This happened on a few other occasions, since gun scenes did take place a good amount of times. That goes a long way for me, as it shows the film’s attention to detail and promotes some sense of realism.
Overall, however, the ingredients of this film made for a very lackluster and all-over-the-place movie. It had an element of sci-fi to it, but honestly, it mainly had the attributes of every other saturated action thriller: dialogue lacking substance, curse words, explosions, and sub-par plot that only made the minute hand on my watch seem to go slower.