Surprisingly, Criminal comes in as a very enjoyable but silly action drama that’s equal parts bonkers and brilliant. The success lies centrally with Kevin Costner, who gives the role the respect it needed to work onscreen. Echoing Face-Off, we find Costner’s hardened death-row criminal Jericho Stewart implanted with the memories and skill-set of CIA operative Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) before he dies. With an imminent terrorist threat looming in the capital, Jericho finds out that he must save the day whether he wants to or not, utilising his new found skills whilst struggling to find his own path.
The action is gripping and the vibe is exactly what you’d want from a modern London action-drama. With a very keen stylistic eye, Criminal is at its best when it uses London’s landmarks to bring the story home. Whether it’s sweeping cityscapes, the backstreets of urban London, or the seeming serenity of suburbia, Criminal makes London a big screen star and that’s a huge accomplishment. Throw in some fantastic car chases and a decent sprinkle of spectacle and you have a film that hits almost all of its targets. It’s clear that director Ariel Vromen has a very keen eye for action, and he at least gives London’s most famous landmarks a great starring role in the story. It also begs the question as to why more films don’t utilise our capital’s finest locations properly.
The supporting cast is unusually impressive for a film of this ilk with heavyweights Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones joining Wonder Woman herself Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds to form an accomplished line-up. It’s a shame Reynolds isn’t in this more, he has a great character and one that I’d have loved to see in his own film. Jones and Oldman are their usual awesome selves and Gadot has a bit more to do than to just look pretty (although she dutifully obliges anyway).
Speaking of underused actors, Alice Eve, Colin Salmon, Amaury Nolasco and Robert Davi are all in this for far too short a time. I’m not sure why Michael Pitt wanted to play such a thinly fleshed-out role but he does well, as does Jordi Mollà as a hilariously over-the-top villain. He was awesome in Bad Boys 2 and in many ways he keeps this trend going here.
Criminal might be silly but it’s a lot of fun too. It’s also great to see Kevin Costner back leading big-budget films again. He is a true Hollywood superstar and it’s great to see him return to action cinema, a place where he has delivered so many memorable turns in the past. If you are sceptical about his ability to hold this film together, check out the heart-wrenching scene he shares with Gal Gadot in her house as he struggles to cope with Bill Pope’s memories, whilst also outlining why he isn’t a good man. That level of professionalism and character development really elevates this film and marks that scene as a masterclass of restrained angst. Criminal is worth the admission price for that scene alone.
Cast: Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Michael Pitt Director: Ariel Vromen Writer: Douglas Cook, David Weisberg Released By: Lionsgate Certificate: 12A Duration: 113 mins Release Date: 15th April 2016