Criminal film review: a capital offence?

Can a star-studded cast save crime thriller Criminal?


CIA agent Bill Pope in London (cue a Ryan Reynolds cameo) is the only person who knows the location of a flash drive containing a programme that can launch the world’s missiles, but he is killed by an anarchist group who are in pursuit of the drive.

CIA boss Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) decides that the only way to get to the flash drive before the terrorists do is to get Tommy Lee Jones’ neurosurgeon to implant Pope’s memories into that of a brain-damaged, emotionless criminal – Kevin Costner’s ridiculously named Jericho Stewart. Jericho gets all of Pope’s memories – plus his spy skills and his love for his wife Jill (Gal Gadot) and their daughter. 

The flaw in the plan to put CIA skills in the head of a man with no emotions or moral compass is obvious, and Costner has a whale of a time playing the inappropriate, detached Jericho, who has no qualms about beating up and even killing innocent bystanders. The violence isn’t cartoonish enough, nor are the victims deserving enough for Jericho’s violent streak to be entertaining, which we suspect is the tone the film makers were going for. Instead, it just leaves you feeling queasy.

Costner has fun in the lead role, but Oldman and Jones are criminally under-used. Oldman’s lines consist mainly of shouting, while Jones just walks around with permanently sad eyes, although he and Costner at least share one good scene.

The only supporting cast member with more than nothing to do is Gal Gadot, even though all she’s really there for is to aid Jericho’s emotional development and get imperilled. Still, she comes out of the film well, and her performance here bodes well for her Wonder Woman movie.

The film has some good action sequences, but the plot is weirdly convoluted and it’s hard to forgive the misuse of so many great actors. Worst of all, it’s underdeveloped – it could have been a lot of fun if they’d spent more time refining plot, character and tone.