I’ve never understood the appeal of Kevin Costner. He’s a fine actor, but I’ve never once sought out his movies, nor have I known anyone to do so. He’s been dramatic, comedic, good, evil, a total badass, Superman’s stepdad, and yet he’s not really remembered for any of those things. For the life of me I can’t even remember how he got famous in the first place. And now that he’s noticeably past his prime, he seems determined to do the Liam Neeson thing and become the next “aging action star”. First there was 3 Days to Kill, which was more of an estranged father/daughter drama with guns, and now we have Criminal, which puts Ryan Reynolds in Kevin Costner’s body, which, considering the recent success of Deadpool, makes one wonder why the $#%& it isn’t the other way around!
Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is an American spy in London, England. He gets captured by the enemy, tortured for information regarding a hacker known as “The Dutchman” (Michael Pitt), and left nearly braindead. Hoping to recover Pope’s secrets, CIA Agent Wells (Gary Oldman) enlists the help of Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones), who proposes a radical procedure: putting Pope’s memories into the brain of another. Enter Jericho (Kevin Costner), a career criminal with no sense of right or wrong. When the procedure is complete, it seems like a total failure. But on Jericho’s return trip back to prison, Pope’s memories begin invading his mind, altering his behavior and motivating him to escape and track down this “Dutchman”.
“Kevin Costner!” “Tommy Lee Jones!” “Gary Oldman!” Sound a little ’90s? It might be because they were all in JFK together back in 1991. I don’t know who did the casting for this, but their first mistake was relegating Ryan Reynolds to a bit part. At the very least, they could have marketed the movie better with him in the lead, especially after the deliciously R-rated success of Deadpool. Not that their casting choices were bad. Kevin Costner is amusing when he’s Jericho, but boring when Pope intervenes. Tommy Lee Jones reminds us why we like him, but leaves something to be desired. And Gary Oldman, I don’t know what happened to him. He follows his one-dimensional arrogant guy routine, which is becoming more and more common in the roles he’s taken recently. I just don’t know. He used to steal every scene of every movie he was in. Now he just spews forgettable dialogue and collects his paycheck. And poor Gal Gadot, a.k.a. Wonder Woman, is nothing more than a teary-eyed damsel-in-distress. But hey, this movie has Jonathan Kent, Wonder Woman, Commissioner Gordon, Two-Face, and Green Lantern all in one place, so at least there’s some DC Universe trivia here.
Now let’s get one thing straight: Jericho is absolutely not a good guy. He’s not even an anti-hero. He kills innocent people quite regularly in this movie, even after getting Pope’s memories. I get that the movie’s called Criminal, but having an actual bad person go after the bad guys will not attract a very big audience. Jericho may make a sarcastic comment here and there, but his unwavering immorality makes it impossible to root for him. I spent more time trying to understand his character than the incomprehensible plot. Jericho’s not even primarily interested in “The Dutchman” for most of it. He’s after a bag of money Bill Pope stashed somewhere. As he wastes time searching for his precious cash, the real bad guys talk, and use laptops, and talk some more, and use laptops some more, etc. This movie is more interested in showing Jericho’s next immoral act, usually interrupted by some new Bill Pope memories, that I didn’t know what the central plot was until the climactic moments. How am I supposed to care if the guy who just killed a carload of unarmed cops stops a nuclear attack in time?
This movie lacks focus like you wouldn’t believe. It jumps from scene to scene, one set of bland characters to another, but never strings them together to make it coherent or even watchable. Kevin Costner is entertaining enough, but I wouldn’t say he “carries” the movie because of how it crawls along at a snail’s pace. I spent two slow hours trying to piece together the plot, and when it was finally blatantly revealed to me (after it was too late to care), I couldn’t believe how thin it was. Two hours of using my brain to watch a guy with two brains foil a brainless plot. Now that’s just criminal.
2 out of 5