Action films are not my usual draw, but with older actors like Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Kevin Costner – a stellar line-up- I chose a Friday night divergence from identity finding films, bio-pics, and period dramas. I can’t say I was disappointed with “Criminal”. It is like MI-5 meets slasher flick. Forty-year-old male directors and screenwriters get to put their video-gaming to work in a film they hope will be financially profitable to their ilk. It is entertaining fare.
Three strands develop and keep the intensity strumming. We are in London. A Spanish anarchist has a program code-named “Wormwood”. It can intercept and re-mastermind any U.S. Military program. The Russians want it. The Americans are eighteen years into a sci-fi like brain transfer experiment that can recapture the frontal cortex of one person for another to absorb. One application is for an inoperative operative to have that hard earned knowledge directly moved to the brain of another. Dr. Franks ( Tommy Lee Jones) convinces CIA Chief ,Gary Oldman, to use a death- row convict to be the recipient of this Intel, language training etc….BAriel Vromen, spy thrillerilly Pope, charmingly played by Ryan Reynolds, must be replaced and quickly if “Wormwood” is to be shutdown.
Kevin Costner possesses a psychopathic brain. As Jericho Stewart, Costner will be the first memory transplant receiver. He plays deranged well. His backstory is a sympathetic one. Violent passion has him left without any empathetic feelings or impulse control after being thrown from a car as a baby when a man was told he was not his son.
Be prepared for more on scene brutality on a Tarentino level. Jugulars are ripped open with big crochet-like hooks made creatively from car trim ( must have been an older chrome-laden car) and heads are pummeled with lamps until brains ooze.
Israeli Director Ariel Vromen reiterates the major theme: “You hurt me: I hurt you more.” If this movie tends to question what makes us human it is glancing. Are we more than our memories and mapped neural connections?
Enjoy the cagey moves MI-5 style, endure the operative’s torture in a slaughter house, marvel at the sci-fi brain transfer of one man’s memories to another’s body. It takes a female operative to ask, “What are we going to tell his wife?” Remember “Face Off”! And finally, enjoy Costner’s animal-like ferocity in a diner, a coffee shop ,and in a rare book room. Note how the librarian is treated when she states that there is a que. “There’s a line, and I’m in front of it, Sugar Puss.”, Costner growls. Public servants, beware of spit flying.
The larger threat of Wormwood is held at bay when Jericho effortlessly recalls Billy’s home security code. His small daughter and wife provide Jericho’s only glimpse at love. Humor comes in small doses in Jericho’s self-mutterings. When he speaks in effortless French, he thinks he is speaking Spanish, when he says ” Cheers”, he mumbles ” who the fuck says ,”cheers”.
The plot continues with the ” Dutchman” ( Michael Pitt) attempting to blackmail the U.S. Government. We question what is truly criminal. Jericho with the partial brain of Billy and his own brawn has the endgame figured out. One of the best shots has his car plunging off a bridge and him rising to the surface. See this film and ask yourself if we are just neural connections.