Review: Criminal (2016)


Criminal (2016)

Directed by: Ariel Vromen | 113 minutes | action, science fiction, thriller | Actors: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Jordi Mollà, Michael Pitt, Amaury Nolasco, Alice Eve, Antje Traue, Scott Adkins, Lara Decaro

The transfer of one’s brain, consciousness or intellect to another (human or machine) has inspired many writers, filmmakers and other artists. From films, comics, games and series (“Dollhouse” (2009-2010) even derives its entire existence from it); the examples are endless. Usually the subject is approached with a certain degree of solemnity, but everyone knows the hilarious way in which Joey’s “Days of Our Lives” character Dr. Drake Ramoray got the brains of Jessica Lockhart (Susan Sarandon) in “Friends”. In ‘Criminal’ (2016), an action thriller, we get serious again.

Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds in a role you could almost call a cameo), called Billy by his wife Jill(y) (Gal Gadot), is an Intelligence officer at the CIA. He is on an important mission, but still finds time to call his wife and child. When he discovers that he is being chased, however, the gravity of the situation dawns on him and it turns out to have been the last moments the family spent – although far apart. Billy dies. CIA colleagues are just a little late, but Billy’s boss Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) isn’t giving up so easily. Billy had very sensitive information, data with which a world war could be prevented. He switches Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones), a man who has spent eighteen years developing a method to transfer the contents of one’s brain to another living being. However, this is the first time it has to go from person to person.

The recipient of Billy’s memory is – of course – a person the authorities prefer to leave in the depths of the highest-security prison on Earth. But dr. Franks demands it has to be this Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner), or nobody. As a child, Jerico suffered a certain brain injury that made him a. indeed become a senseless criminal/murderer, but b. is also the perfect candidate for this experiment, as certain parts of his brain are underdeveloped.

How this will end remains to be seen. ‘Criminal’ is a decent action thriller that doesn’t do a lot of news, but is carried by the fine acting of a Costner on a roll. It’s quite surprising how good he is as an ice-cold ruthless amoral thug, since we’ve seen him more often in the more friendly roles. The other big names in this film get less to do, but also carry enough weight to not give the film the predicate B-movie. Oldman is especially strong as a boss who cannot handle the pressure of his work. The bad guys come out less well. Jordi Mollà plays Xavier Heimdahl, with henchwoman Elsa Mueller (Antje Traue), but his exact goal remains unclear. As a result, the film is nowhere really exciting and the action scenes do not feel genuinely urgent. You never have the feeling that (many) human lives are at stake, although there are of course some victims, even innocent ones.

What’s also unfortunate is that the in itself intriguing (but not original) idea of ​​brain transfer is not fully exploited. ‘Criminal’ contains a few scenes in which Jerico suddenly shows emotions and is startled by them, but that’s about it. You would have had about the same effect if the dying CIA agent had put a letter with important clues into the hands of the hardened criminal during his death scene. ‘Criminal’ is a film that doesn’t live up to all its potential, but it certainly isn’t an annoying waste of time if you’re in the mood for an action thriller with many well-known Hollywood headlines.