The Captain reviews the film Criminal:
From the trailers alone, I got Self/less flashbacks. A film I’ve been championing since it came out. I mean, hell, the films both feature people getting shoved inside other people and both of those people being Ryan Reynolds.
But that is where the similarities end.
Why did Self/less fail? I personally blame the trailers. Not once did it show off the cool action sequences, but focused more on Ben Kingsley becoming young again. Yuck, no one wants to see that!
Criminal did kind of the opposite, choosing to showcase more of the action than the weird brain swapping.
So why did Criminal fail as well?
Was it because it was set in Europe?
Like setting your film in LA, it seems almost like the kiss of death for any franchise. Maybe Criminal played better overseas… and that doesn’t explain the Jason Bourne series, which all set in some foreign country. But that film also stars Matt Damon, whereas Criminal stars… Kevin Costner?
It isn’t like I have anything against Kevin Costner. Even though back when he was a superstar, he was pretty much a douchebag. A guy so far up his own ass, only Kevin Costner could direct Kevin Costner. Just listen to a few of the stories on him during the filming of Waterworld and you’ll quickly grow to dislike him as well.
But since doing the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, he has kind of gotten his comeback career started. Where Michael Keaton started doing more Oscar worthy material, Costner took the Liam Neeson path, doing grittier action films. Like 3 Days to Kill and the brutal bloodbath that was Draft Day. Get this, it was like Money Ball but with football players. I know, pretty exciting.
I like the idea of bad guys having to go against even badder bad guys. Like the film, No One Lives. You have these real scummy killers that cross paths with an even bigger psycho.
In Criminal, the bad guys are echo terrorists and a computer hacker. Yeah, real threatening. Kevin Costner plays Jericho, an emotionless psychopath. That sounds kind of cool, right? You have these idiot wannabe bad guys having to deal with an actual bad guy and getting slaughtered.
But it is never played out like that. Jericho, mostly just wants to get his hands on some money. So that’s his motivation throughout the majority of the film.
Hank mentioned this ticking clock in the script. How they have to rush to find this hacker before he sets off a nuke. Well, that’s gone. No more ticking clock. I’m not completely sure why they’re in a hurry to find this guy, played by Michael Pitt. I guess to keep it out of the hands of the terrorist Xavier who wants to destroy the world. How is that still a thing in movies?
He wants to nuke the world because… reasons. I haven’t seen the mad scientist scenario in a movie in a very long time. Wanting to sell it, make money, gain power, all stuff I can buy. But to destroy the world? They live here too, I don’t really see why they’d want to blow everything up.
The thing that replaces the ticking clock is when Jan, the computer hacker who has control of the US nuclear launch codes, has to set up a demonstration for the Russians by setting off a nuclear sub’s missile. The whole time the film is counting down to this moment. But all it does is shoot out then immediately explodes in the air. So they were counting down for that? Are we meant to be at the edge of our seats? Oh no! The ocean is totally going to get all dirty now with all them exploded missile parts! Save us Kevin Costner!
So let’s recap, Jericho has no real motivation through most of this film, the only sense of urgency we get is to stop a bomb from splashing in the ocean. And our bad guys are computer hackers. Come on!
I guess I never told how this all happened.
Ryan Reynolds plays Bill Pope. Now if you’re seeing this just for Ryan Reynolds, you are going to be extremely disappointed. He is in this for maybe 5 minutes before he is killed off.
Pope was an undercover CIA agent, he has been in contact with the hacker Jan, who wants to defect. And by defect I mean, get a bunch of money and a new ID.
Unfortunately, Pope is killed before he can make the deal. The evil computer hackers wanting the location of Jan and his stolen nuclear launch codes.
Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones is a scientist who has been working on a special project to implant people’s memories into other people’s heads. That is where Jericho comes in to play. He is a psychopath without emotions, like I said. When he was a kid, his dad tossed him out a moving car, giving him brain damage. Somehow this turned him into a killing murdering lunatic. But also the perfect subject to put memories into. Because science!
I actually like that Jericho is a bad guy. The way he breaks out of CIA custody is by killing two agents and some random stranger, burning his body to make the CIA think he is dead. Just some random guy he pulls from a car and burns him to death. Our hero, folks!
But again, I kind of like that. I love the idea of bad guys having to face off against an even badder guy. Like if you hold someone hostage, using them as a human shield, he’d just shoot through the shield(hostage). Unfortunately they had a chance at the end to do that and all he does is throw his gun at the bad guy.
It would have been such a perfect ending. He had already stormed into this heavily guarded airstrip, armed with nothing but an ax, killing everyone. The bad guy has Pope’s wife at gunpoint demanding to surrender the flash thumb drive with the launch codes. It would have put the cherry on top if he just shot the wife, leaving the bad guy confused. You just shot your wife! What is wrong with you?!
Okay, so characters. There are a bunch of them. None of them all that memorable. Gary Oldman plays an asshole in charge of the CIA I guess. I kept expecting for his character to have a point. Like maybe reveal he set Pope up or is dirty, but nope. He was just an asshole.
I thought more would happen with the pretty blonde CIA agent, but nope, she’s quickly killed off. Seriously, you have gorgeous Alice Eve in your film and you shoot her down half way into the film?
And that is made even more confusing because she is quickly replaced by another attractive blonde. Didn’t I just see you die?
Then there’s Jan, the computer hacker, who also quickly gets killed off. Even lady terminator, this bad ass lady assassin gets killed easily, having her face bashed in by Jericho.
And then there is Pope’s wife, played by Gal Gadot. Wonder Woman. Wait, Wonder Woman was married to Deadpool? Who worked for Commissioner Gordon? Who went to Two-Face for help?! What is going on!
So in the end, Pope’s memories have soaked into Jericho, not really turning him into Pope but… I’m not sure. And it creepily hinted at a renewed romance with Jericho and Pope’s wife. I say creepily because the first time these two characters meet, he is duct taping her to the bed, robbing her. And kind of creepily ogling her. My kind of romance!
Instead of going back to prison, he is asked to work for the CIA and it ends there. I do think that is a better ending than what Hank mentioned in the script. The idea of this guy going back to prison didn’t feel right. I mean, I know I spent this whole review calling him a psychopath, but technically it wasn’t his fault. The guy had zero emotions, he has no idea what is right and what is wrong but now he does. Putting him back in prison where he was chained up like a dog, being fed through this hole in the ceiling seems kind of wrong now.
So happy ending. Don’t expect a sequel.
I did enjoy this film. You really have to go into it thinking fine, it’s going to be a dumb action movie. And it is. Should you see this before you’ve seen Self/less? Hell, no. Go see that movie right now. Then maybe go check out Criminal.
Want more helpful screenwriting tips and movie/script reviews? Follow this link to our Discussion Forum.
And be sure to check out our Notes Service, where I give my detailed thoughts and suggestions on your script.