Kevin Costner gives a kick-ass performance in Criminal, a new action thriller with an incredible cast and deliciously OTT plot. Ariel Vromen directs proceedings with verve, and this means that Criminal has serious kinetic energy. Vromen’s film has much to recommend, but the highlight of this London-set film is Kevin Costner’s leading role: Costner injects the film with so much adrenaline that you think it’s going to OD.
Ryan Reynolds is Bill Pope, a CIA agent working to stop a serious international threat. Hacker, The Dutchman (Michael Pitt), is able to tap into the world’s nuclear weapons and set them off with ease. The Dutchman though has a change of heart about giving his knowledge to terrorist Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Mollà). Heimdahl kills Pope and begins the search for the hacker and it looks like the chance to thwart that threat is lost. Enter Tommy Lee Jones as Doctor Franks, a brilliant scientist with the skill and the knowledge to insert Pope’s memories into another human. Unfortunately, the only match is Jericho Stewart (Costner), a ruthless killer on Death Row. Pope’s memories are implanted but before the CIA can locate The Dutchman, Jericho escapes. He uses Pope’s skills to evade capture, but Jericho’s evil edge is softened by Pope’s caring demeanor and soon the Criminal is attempting to save the world.
Fans of Ryan Reynolds will be disappointed that the actor bows out in the opening scenes of the movie, leaving plenty of room for veteran Kevin Costner to shine. Costner’s scenery chewing role steals the movie. This is a rare villainous turn for the Oscar winner and it’s clear Costner relishes playing against his nice guy image. The former Bodyguard makes for a convincing action star and Costner’s bone-crunching anti-hero is a joy to watch. He’s also able to infuse his character with heart and emotion, offering up a tremendous villain and a very credible hero. Costner is surrounded by a stellar cast, and the actor is reunited with two of his JFK co-stars: Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman. Jones brings a low-key earnestness as the Frankenstein-lite doctor, while Oldman taps into his Jim Gordon persona as the exasperated CIA agent who is always one step behind Jericho. Wonder Woman herself (Gal Gadot) has a significant role as Pope’s wife and some of the honest scenes of the movie are played between the Israeli actress and Costner.
Criminal embraces its techno-action plot with delight. It may be far-fetched and deathly serious, but it’s damn good fun. Kevin Costner once again shows why he’s a Hollywood legend and his star power gives the film a massive charisma boost.