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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Criminal 2016 * * 1/2 Stars

CriminalDirector: Ariel Vromen
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones

Here are a few observations I've made about some actors/actresses in 2016's Criminal (my latest review). OK, let's begin: Kevin Costner with his meager dialogue readings, grumbles, growls, and grunts. Gary Oldman with his umpteenth American accent, gets ticked off and yells customarily. Tommy Lee Jones who fades in and out of the film, talks fast and doesn't really get to emote. The prepossessing Alice Eve looks sedated while really phoning in her performance and finally, Ryan Reynolds is well, Ryan Reynolds. Now is Criminal the reunion-like sequel to Oliver Stone's JFK (Oldman, Costner, and Jones in the same flick together)? No, not really. This is a nastily violent, techy thriller that's edited tightly, preposterous, and flows nicely. For better or worse, Criminal is passable entertainment despite a premise that is seemingly "on parole" (ha-ha). And Costner who looks so far gone from trying to get in the Academy's good graces (remember Dances with Wolves from 25+ years ago?), bulks up here all the while trying to become a successor to Liam Neeson (oh my, the badass, senior antihero circuit is ever expanding).

Filmed primarily in London, England and distributed by Summit Entertainment, Criminal on the surface, projects itself to be another straight-to-video endeavor. There's its poster channeling 2015's Extraction (released only on DVD) and then there's the generic title (which feels a little hackneyed). Don't be fooled though, this is a movie that's above the limited release muck. The production values are stronger and director Ariel Vromen (The Iceman) seems to know what he's doing with the camera. Yeah Criminal does promote itself as action for the bloody, horror film host. And yes, its script, musical score, nullified computer speak, and slick look come off as rather stock at times. Here's the thing however: Criminal does deserve a true, theatrical release (despite what I initially thought). Just imagine something above Costner's previous 3 Days to Kill and slightly below Pierce Brosnan's The November Man. Not half bad as far as I'm concerned.

The story is sort of unoriginal yet somehow someway, an audience member could be distracted from that notion. Jericho Stewart (Costner) is a despicable man, a convict with a frontal lobe disorder. As the film tells us, "he has no impulse control, he's unable to calculate the consequences of his actions, and he has a total lack of empathy for anybody or anything." Because of his condition, Jericho has been tapped to be an experiment for the CIA. Supervisor Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) with the help of Dr. Mahal Franks (played by Tommy Lee Jones), wants to infuse the memory implants of a dead agent (Ryan Reynolds as Bill Pope) into Stewart's brain. This will enable Costner's Stewart to find the location of a computer hacker known as 'the Dutchman' (played by Micheal Pitt). Said 'Dutchman' has the ability to create a wormhole bent on protecting the world's nuclear defense codes. This diegesis is all made simple by Vromen's gruesome, penchant for street-style brutality and Costner's free-based arrogance (he likes to play these types of characters a lot). Look for a scene where Jericho uses a sharp part of a police vehicle to rip a cop's neck open. Also, look for another scene where Costner's Jericho beats a female malefactor with a disassembled lamp. Talk about Antoine Fuqua kitsch that's truly not for the kiddies. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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