Commentaries

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

CRIMINAL PACKS STAR POWER



CRIMINAL

Film Review by Fiore 


The story is a familiar template, but Kevin Costner’s latest action yarn is still worth a look due the incredible talent amassed on screen.  The theme of switching bodies or minds is consistent through the past three or four decades, but as Hollywood producers age, the theme is taking on a more serious mien.  While CRIMINAL plays on a variation of the theme, it is the movie’s star power that propels it to a higher echelon.  In addition to Costner, the film features: Tommy Lee Jones; Gary Oldman; Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot.  This ensemble cast helps elevate a plot that mixes THE ROCK with SELF/LESS to an enjoyable level.

What helps CRIMINAL work are the character side roads.  Jones, normally a fiery, over-the-top character, plays a meek, mild-mannered doctor.  Oldman, normally pensive and cleaver, is impulsive and reactionary; and Costner, who played the hardcore action star in Luc Besson’s THREE DAYS TO KILL, now adds the element of criminality.  The only actor repeating a character type is Reynolds.  

Jericho Stewart (Costner) is a habitual criminal.  He has no sense of right or wrong and experiences no emotions due to an undeveloped left frontal brain lobe.  This medical flaw also makes him the perfect candidate when super spy Bill Pope (Reynolds) dies containing key information to avert a worldwide disaster.  Through the extensive research of Dr. Franks (Jones), Pope’s memories are transplanted into Stewart.  Unfortunately, the memory transfer isn’t instantaneous, which causes CIA boss Quaker Wells (Oldman) to blow a gasket and brings Stewart trauma as he is exposed to emotions for the first time.  The dilemma is similar to the conflict Brent Spiner, as Commander Data, experienced in STAR TREK: NEMISIS.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      Stealing the van.
2.      The chem lab and the fight with Marta
3.      The pharmacy

CRIMINAL is similar to Ryan Reynolds’ previous film, SELF/LESS, so it’s a little surprising the casting agents opted to use him in this part. While both films have a sci-fi feel, this one is less in the fantasy field. Somehow, perhaps through watching too many movies on the Syfy Channel, swapping someone’s thoughts seems more realistic than putting someone’s mind into a new body.  

The film has an incredibly paced conclusion.  Credit Editor Danny Rafic with a final reel that makes many amends for the sluggishness of the film's midsection.  Screenwriter Douglas Cook takes considerable time in character development and as such, drags the film during the second act, something Syd Field would not find amusing.  The other script flaw is the choice of Jordi Molla as Xavier Heimdahl, the antagonist.  He is a Spanish anarchist.  Spain, really?  Of all the countries currently in the “We hate America” group, we’re supposed to believe Spain is a threat?  When the doomsday software goes on the open market, one can readily understand Russia being a prime bidder; but to have Spain outwit both superpowers, exuding levels of world dominance worthy of James Bond’s arch nemesis SPECTRE, is stretching credulity a bit far.  It still amazes me how Hollywood attempts to find nefarious no-goods for its films in the guise of everyone but who they actually are; Muslims and progressives.  

These minor flaws aside, CRIMINAL uses its stars as a crutch and carries formulaic thriller material to an enjoyable level.  The stars seem to know they are working with average material, and turn things up a notch, as Emeril would say, to make succulent sushi out of raw fish.



THE GRADE FOR CRIMINAL = B

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