Imagine having a slice of technology that allows man the ability to remove the memories from the recently deceased, and insert them into living folks.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it has been used a plot-device, with varying levels of success, in such films like Total Recall and The 6th Day. The latest iteration of this plot line in Criminal places a believable spin to the time tested formula.
With a star-studded cast featuring the likes of Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, and Gal Gadot, there are some expectations of the movie’s pedigree. (It’s Jonathan “Pa” Kent, Hal “Green Lantern” Jordan, Harvey “Two Face” Dent, James “Commissioner” Gordon and Diana “Wonder Woman” Prince together in one movie for crying out loud!)
Having enjoyed Kevin Costner in 3 Days To Kill, where his portrayal of a CIA hit man was simply stellar, I hoped from the onset that there would be some potential for Criminal to be a good movie aided with an ensemble cast.
The plot opens with CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds), as he is being chased by unknown parties across the streets of London. As everyone who has seen the trailer knows, he soon ends up in a tight spot and is killed, setting up perhaps the shortest role ever in film history. As Pope was the only one who knew the whereabouts of the infamous hacker Dutchman (Michael Pitt), the CIA station chief in London seeks out new technology in order to retrieve the information locked in Pope’s head. Enter the memory retrieval/reinsertion science, where the CIA race to get hold of this information to save the world (yet again).
Now, in a lot of movies, the filmmakers and scriptwriters completely ignore the explanation as to how they are able to transfer memories, or create new ones. What I like about Criminal is that they use terms that allow your imagination to think, Yes, this sounds plausible. Granted, this is told in a somewhat long and boring exchange, but I believe it is necessary for the rest of the movie, to have it all laid out for the audience.
Of course, the technology can’t work on just anyone. The recipient has to have a very specific neurological condition, such as a severe head injury, to make the tech function. Jericho (Kevin Costner), our quintessential career criminal, comes into the picture. With absolutely no remorse or moral compass to differ between good or bad, Jericho is psychotic and caveman-like in his character and behaviour. Costner portrays that insanity remarkable well. To progress the plot, Jericho is “volun-told” by the CIA to be the host for the deceased Bill Pope’s memories.
As expected, it doesn’t go as planned for the agency, and Jericho plays a huge part in it. Constantly fed with sudden rushes of memories from another individual, and remembering the feelings Pope had, he runs at full speed off the edge, and proceeds to take matters into his own hands, and to extraordinary effect.
As a thriller, Criminal is surprisingly entertaining. With sufficient action and humorous points (especially due to Jericho’s behaviour) peppered constantly throughout the film, each actor plays an important role, which is tricky to master in an ensemble cast. Now, I would have loved to see more of Ryan Reynolds in this movie, but that’s life (or in his case, death).