Criminal Review
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You’ve heard it said that you can’t just a book by its cover. Well, you also can’t judge a movie by its cast. That’s definitely the case for Criminal—because while the massive ensemble cast may sound promising, they simply can’t act their way out of a messy story.

Criminal follows CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) on a mission to negotiate with a hacker known as The Dutchman (Michael Pitt) and prevent him from using the military codes that he’s stolen to start another world war. When Pope is captured and killed, the CIA’s only hope of finding The Dutchman is an experimental procedure that will place Pope’s memories in the brain of vicious sociopath Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner). But then the criminal escapes from the CIA, and his mix of Pope’s knowledge and his own killer tendencies proves lethal.

What follows, however, is a predictable—and often surprisingly dull—sequence of needlessly shaky action scenes and perplexing decisions by seemingly incompetent CIA agents. There are just so many problems with the plot. For instance, this clumsy convict who’s straight out of solitary confinement and recovering from brain surgery somehow manages to escape custody on more than one occasion, while outrunning both an entire team of CIA agents and a crazed anarchist and his followers. Sure, he’s been transplanted with memories of a dead operative—but, especially at first, those memories are glitchy as best. And that, sadly, is only the beginning.

Still, it’s a credit to Costner that—despite the head-scratching story and generally awkward writing—his performance is strong enough that he’ll make audiences want to care about his character. Together with Gal Gadot, who plays Bill’s widow, he gives the film unexpected heart. But the abundance of too-convenient plot points and downright laughable moments is simply impossible to overlook. And while they try to do their best with what they’ve been given, it’s not nearly enough.

It’s unfortunate that the film is such a mess—because, really, this is a cast that could make a pretty good action movie (and, individually, many of them already have). But most of the cast members—from Gary Oldman to Tommy Lee Jones—aren’t given much to work with. And they seem to realize early on that it’s not even worth trying.

With its loaded ensemble cast and its sci-fi twist, Criminal should have at least been a brainless guilty pleasure. But this one’s probably best left for late-night cable TV viewing.

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