This script by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg is so putrid that Ryan Reynolds should be very thankful he got to bow out early in the movie. Even director Ariel Vromen's car chases lack the mandatory outrageousness that is all the rage in films of this action-thriller genre. "Criminal" is a bad, bad movie.
Perhaps the process of transferring one man's memories to another is not so far-fetched --- who knows what the CIA is secretly working on? But this premise is ludicrous, especially given that the chosen recipient of dead CIA agent Bill Pope's (Reynolds) thoughts is a psychopath named Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner) whose brain was damaged as a child.
Seriously, Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) picks this guy because he's one in 10 million who possesses just the right frontal lobe? This is just the beginning of the absurdities in "Criminal".
Pope was hiding a punk hacker, aka "The Dutchman" (Michael Pitt) --- who writes this stuff --- from the maniacal anarchist Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Molla). It seems the Dutchman was able to take control of all of the U.S. nuclear weapons --- uh oh --- and crazy man Xavier wants them. So he kills Pope, but still can't find the Dutchman.
Enter Jerico, who now has Pope's memories. Only the CIA's London head honcho, Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) --- again, seriously? --- thinks Franks' operation isn't successful and wants Jerico taken care of. But, as luck would have it, he manages to pry off a car door accessory with his teeth and murders his two CIA babysitters.
I am not making this up! Next he nearly beats to death a few more innocent bystanders, steals a van and heads to Pope's London home. There he ties up Pope's wife Jill (Gal Gadot), but leaves her daughter Emma (Lara Decaro) unharmed --- he's beginning to have feelings he's never had before. By this time in the movie, I am ready to gag. And it gets worse.
"Criminal" is extremely, horribly violent. It seems to have become the norm in these types of movies, but, truthfully, I am sick of it. And I can't decide which is worse, Costner's on-going grunting throughout "Criminal", or Oldman's grotesquely over-the-top performance. If our CIA really operates as inefficiently as portrayed here, we are doomed.
Wells and his minions are outsmarted at every turn. Jill works in the rare books section of a university, but no one ever thinks to look there for the Dutchman. It makes perfect sense to me that that's where Pope may have stashed him, but apparently none of these guys has any sense.
Costner tries mightily to be a tough guy, but fails miserably. And, he's way too old for this role. It gets very creepy when he tries to get close to Jill and Emma. Ewwww. At his age, he could be Jill's father and we're supposed to believe that she's falling for Jerico because he can remember things she and her husband shared, like touching his nose as a signal that he loves her.
By the end of "Criminal" I couldn't wait to leave the theater. The last scene is so manipulative --- heck the entire film is manipulative. It is a complete waste of time.
Opinion: Don't Bother!
Why is it that screenwriters Douglas Cook and David Weisberg thought another movie about mind transfer would be interesting? When Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds), a CIA operative, is killed on the job with some critical information lodged in his memory banks, a doctor (an unconvincing Tommy Lee Jones), along with CIA chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman), decide they must take Pope's recall and put it into the mind of a convicted murderer, Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner).
We've seen this stuff before, and guess what? It's no longer a novelty. When Jerico is released from prison, he perpetrates ridiculous acts of violence on innocent people. In one scene, Jerico flattens a man in a coffee shop for getting in his way. This is just one of many irrational acts Jerico commits, and they're not entertaining, simply gratuitous and annoying.
The story really moves into trite territory when Jerico breaks into Pope's home and threatens his wife, Jill (Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman in the recent bust "Batman vs Superman") and her young daughter, Emma (Lara Decaro). However, he abandons his sadistic behavior and forms a bond with Jill and Emma, proving to Jill that he really has her dead husband's memory by recounting many things from their past. Of course, the little girl has no fear of Jerico, and the predictable relationship that the trio develops is pretty obvious.
The last straw has Costner's character simulating Pope's sign of love for Jill by tapping the end of his nose. A better gesture would have been Jerico holding each side of his nostrils with thumb and forefinger.
Israeli director Ariel Vromen's most noted earlier work was the film "The Iceman" (2012) starring Michael Shannon as a crazed hit man. At least that movie, favored by a majority of critics, had some intrigue. "Criminal" is just something you want to see end.
Opinion: Don't Bother!