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CRIMINAL (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Ariel Vromen
Starring: Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Michael Pitt
Action films about the lead character with the past erased make good money at the box office. Examples are THE BOURNE IDENTITY, Liam Neeson’s UNKNOWN and last week’s recently released HARDCORE HENRY. CRIMINAL though not identical in concept, plays along the same lines with the lead character having to piece together a new identity.
Based on a script by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg, the film takes the amnesia plot up a few notches. It is an international story dealing with Americans, British, Russians and a Dutchman. The film contains countless London sights in the first 15 minutes, making audiences wonder if the London Tourist Board is subsidizing this film. There are shots of Bank Tube Station, the Thames, Albert Hall, the docklands, Big Ben and the Overground Tube to make the film look more modern.
The film opens with a chase involving CIA agent Ben Pope (Ryan Reynolds). Pope is caught half way through his assignment and killed. His brain needs to be implanted into someone else for the mission to be completed successfully. Or the world will be destroyed. It really does not matter how ridiculous the plot is as director Ariel Vromen (THE ICEMAN) has proven that he can make anything credible and exciting. So, a wanted imprisoned criminal Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner in super-gruff mode) with zero conscience but meets the surgical criteria is implanted with Pope’s memories by Dr. Frank (Tommy Lee Jones) under command of no-nonsense British chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman).
For an action thriller drama, the action segments are handled efficiently, particularly the car chase involving the British police car pile up n the highway and the brief underwater scenes.
The film is aided with an impressive cast that includes no less than the new Wonder Woman, French actress Gal Gadot as Pope’s wife, Brit Oldman and Americans Costner., Jones, Reynolds and the long time unseen Michael Pitt as the Dutchman.
Though I do enjoy a bit of violence in movies, I am not one to condone it. CRIMINAL is exceptionally violent, evident in scenes like the electric torture at the film’s start, the bloodied photo of one of Jericho’s victims the brain surgery and the segment where Jericho beats a number of people up to get food and nab a van. Tools used in fights also include a hammer.
Though there is ample opportunity for the script to moralize, the script thankfully stays aways from it. Jericho is a man with no conscience, a killing machine who is given a chance to have feelings after being implanted with Pope’s memories. Once Jericho begins to feel, he is torn for example between saving one life – Pope’s daughter against sacrificing hers to save many, many more. The main villain has the purpose of creating a software wormhole i order to destroy all the governments in the world as he believes every government is corrupt and that conglomerates rule the world all for money. There is some truth in the villain’s way of thinking and the script leaves it for the audience to debate the issue in their own minds.
CRIMINAL is a good action drama, a good blend between drama and action with not too much ridiculous discontinuous action scenes as in recent films like BATMAN V SUPERMAN and HARDCORE HENRY. For this reason alone, CRIMINAL is a compelling and rather entertaining time-waster.
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