"Entertaining But Familiar Spy Thriller"
What You Need To Know:
The plot of CRIMINAL is far-fetched, but it’s entertaining and fascinating. The movie has a solid cast of veteran stars, including Kevin Costner, and some zippy editing and directing. Thus, CRIMINAL is an above-average thriller, though it often still feels somewhat familiar. The movie has a positive moral, redemptive, patriotic worldview overall, but it’s marred by lots of strong foul language and some graphic violence. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for this particular spy thriller, CRIMINAL.
(B, C, PP, LLL, VVV, S, MM) Moral worldview with light redemptive elements and strong American, patriotic elements where the memories of an American spy are inserted into a criminal born with brain damage to stop some terrorists from being able to hack into nuclear weapon systems, where the memories help the criminal control his evil tendencies; at least 71 obscenities and mostly strong profanities (including many “f” and “s” words); some very strong, sometimes gruesome violence and lots of strong violence includes torture sequence where CIA agent is electro-shocked to give up answers and eventually dies after being shocked in his mouth, gruesome surgery sequence where dead agent’s skull is sliced open to reveal his bloody brain as electrodes are attached to connect his brain to another man’s brain to transfer the dead agent’s memories, numerous gunfights with some bloodshed and damage to heads and other body parts, hand-to-hand combat, several beatings with blunt objects, some basic car chases and explosions, and man tapes another man’s wife, which scares her and her daughter, but he changes his mind and becomes nice to them; mild references to sex as memory flashbacks imply sexual activity between a happily married couple; no nudity; no alcohol; no smoking or drugs; and, characters threaten, lie to and double-cross each other, protagonist has low impulse control, and some stealing.
CRIMINAL is a spy thriller about a deranged criminal who has the memories of a secret agent implanted in his mind so the CIA can still find a computer hacker with a program that can launch nuclear missiles. CRIMINAL is an entertaining spy thriller, but there’s lots of strong foul language and some graphic violence, so extreme caution is advised.
Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent on the trail of a criminal hacker named the Dutchman (Michael Pitt), who’s stolen a top-secret computer program that can give the owner the ability to override security systems around dangerous weapons, including nuclear missiles. The Dutchman is supposed to hand over the program to a Spanish anarchist who wants to bring down Western society. Thus, the CIA and the anarchist engage in a cat and mouse pursuit of the Dutchman.
However, the key to catching the Dutchman lies in the memories of Pope, who winds up dead after being tortured by the anarchists. Enter Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a dangerous criminal who was born with an underdeveloped frontal lobe and thus has poor self-control. The CIA boss (Gary Oldman) brings in a doctor (Tommy Lee Jones) who has conducted experiments transferring memories from one mouse to another, and he’s enlisted to transfer the memories of Pope into Stewart’s mind in the hopes of making him able to articulate where the Dutchman is hiding.
The problem is, Stewart goes on the run after the CIA tries to kill him when he tricks them into thinking the experiment didn’t work. As he fights crushing headaches that may indicate the surgery was dangerous to his wellbeing, he bounces unpredictably back and forth between the sharp fighting skills and rational mind memories of Pope and his own wild impulses.
This plot is far-fetched but kind of fascinating; although it’s never explained how the scientist would know if a mouse had taken on memories of another mouse. Nonetheless, CRIMINAL is a fun ride for mature viewers, who should be warned there’s a fusillade of foul language throughout the movie and a brutal torture scene that opens the movie before standard-level R-rated gunfire takes over. Thus, extreme caution is advised despite the movie’s moral worldview.
CRIMINAL has a solid cast of veteran stars, an intriguing premise and zippy direction from Ariel Vromen. It’s an above-average thriller, but it still often feels like the kind of movie offered to action fans countless times before. Those who are seeking a fun night of action should enjoy this with the cautions in mind, but outside of genre fans, this movie probably holds limited appeal.