Criminai - 2016
Criminal – 2016

Director Ariel Vromen
Screenplay Douglas Cook, David Weisberg
Starring Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Alice Eve, Gal Gadot, Michael Pitt, Jordi Mollà, Antje Traue, Scott Adkins, Amaury Nolasco, Ryan Reynolds

There is a scene midway through the second act when Kevin Costner’s character, the action movie named Jerico Stewart, has just been recaptured by some CIA agents working for Gary Oldman’s hysterically named and acted Quaker Wells. They’re beating him around the head and neck, and he’s just had major surgery there. This would theoretically increase the chances of his dying, not just losing the important MacGuffin therein. It doesn’t matter though, because it’s only the 2nd dumbest thing the CIA has done to him since the surgery.

The reason Stewart is patient zero for the CIA is because one of their agents, Bill Pope (Reynolds) died after being tortured for information he would not give to Xavier Heimdahl (Mollà). Being that there were still a few neurons firing in Pope’s head, Wells decides to push Dr. Micah Franks to do a sort of Frankenstein surgery on Stewart. The reason for picking Stewart, who is languishing in jail, is due to his status as a sociopath due to damaged frontal lobe from being abused as a child. This lack of social dominant skills will help acclimatize to adding someone’s memories (and other stuff).

Normally a surgery to make someone new out of a body might be enough to carry interest in a story. To be fair, Costner does his best to straddle the line of someone who is not used to these new sensations. The inclusion of Oldman’s ridiculous CIA chief threatens to explode the project from the moment Stewart hits the recovery room with annoying and incessant demands and screaming.

It’s not often one goes to a Gary Oldman film and ends up preferring anyone else’s performance. Everyone is entitled to an off day. To call Oldman a detriment to this story is an understatement. It’s like his overwrought and single shrill note performance is playing defense against the entertainment value of what is otherwise a decent show. I am not sure if he had notes that told him to just be abrasive to everyone else, and in the process look dumber than everyone else. I have a hard time believing this performance is his idea.

The rest of the cast is actually pretty decent. Jones is a bit miscast as a brain surgeon. Reynolds seems just on the tail end of his career pause. His role has none of the personality we all would know and love from his post-Deadpool, pre-Green Lantern days. Alice Eve looks serious for a few scenes, but it not really used to her ability. Gadot, though, she is delightful.

The story and film really hinges on Costner’s acting, which is actually pretty good, considering. His wooden frame is taken advantage within the context of the story. He looks like someone having trouble stringing two thoughts together, but he has absolutely no trouble with instinct. It’s fun to watch him debate himself and not know how it is that he won.

I grew up during the era when Costner blew up. It never really occurred to me he wasn’t a great actor until I saw Waterworld. I avoided Robin Hood Prince of Thieves due to the very suspicion though. I hit my cinematic stride with Silverado, The Untouchables, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and then Dances with Wolves. He was either lucky or damn good. I thought he was both.

I think he’s done about 50/50 since then. For every Perfect World, there is something like For The Love of the Game. Not sure if he finds the right director or if they find him. This time, I will assume Vroman got lucky his leading man fits the stunted mental growth role of a lifetime.

The story is no great shakes, beyond Costner and his attempts to connect synapses within his brain. He finds all of the right things to say at the right moment and he never misses an opportunity to kick ass ruthlessly. Except for when he’s being beaten about the precious head and neck area right after a major sensitive surgery. Maybe they should have beaten some sense into the writers and director, instead.

(**1/2 out of *****)

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