Film Review: “Criminal” (2016)

CriminalA very interesting film, but not for the usual reasons.

I think the writers sat down for a brainstorming session and decided on a novel and interesting screenplay. What if the memory from a dying man could be transferred to another for the purpose of mining it for needed and necessary information. Sort of like a less involuted “Inception” (2010). Maybe a variation on the theme of “Face Off” (1997), John Travolta & Nick Cage switching faces (and personalities).

But (yawn), let’s not get too technically accurate as to the process no one knows what the process is and filmgoers don’t care anyway. Skipping over the ‘Sci’ part of “Sci-Fi” is an acceptable expediency because a strong story line trumps all.

So lets consider a neurophysiologist has played around with memory transfer in rats, then finding someone who wouldn’t mind subjecting himself (forced) to the highly experimental process (A jailed sociopath??), then see what he might remember about some details that might save the world.

Now, technically it might be possible to do this, but it would entail uploading the bits of information on transfer-RNA that (probably) constitute “memory” into a supercomputer then downloading it all to a “freshly erased human brain. No, not this week, but remember that what sits on my desk is more computer power that existed in the world 70 years ago. In another 70 years Moore’s Law suggests it will be possible if someone cares to do it, and I know people that do.

The initial chase of the spy carrying the details is much like the great TV advertisement where the mother calls her son who’s running from multiple assailants to let him know that the squirrels are back in the attic and “your father won’t call the exterminators….says it’s personal this time”, as the villains close in.

It’s never explained what mission the nearly dead spy was on, nor why Jericho (Kevin Costner), a violent prisoner with “a total lack of empathy” was selected to be the recipient. Tommy Lee Jones as the doctor looks clinically depressed most of the time. Gary Oldman gets the overacting award for finding inopportune moments to shout at everyone

For all intensive practical purposes, “Criminal” is a bad film. It’s writers absorbed two decades of pedestrian sci-fi movies, assiduously collected and replicated all their worst attributes. Further, putting world-class actors Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones in the same film with incredibly insipid dialog is a crime against nature. If any interest in the subject matter, the film version of “Flowers for Algernon” (Charly- 1968) is the gold standard and won an Oscar for Cliff Robertson.

HOWEVER……..there is one saving grace for this otherwise terrible film, and that’s Kevin Costner. He’s not getting stellar reviews but ignore that. His performance in this film is EXCEPTIONAL. He brings an icy interpretation to this truly uncompensated sociopath. He goes about the business of sociopathy with chilling efficiency, then as another personality slowly infiltrates his being, exhibits a convincing confusion and bewilderment. The infiltration of childhood innocence into the being of a cold-blooded sociopath is well done by Costner.

No, don’t spend good money to see “Criminal” on the big screen bur definitely see it when it comes on HBO or the Torrents. Costner’s performance is riveting. He has an extensive history of taking on roles he thinks he can do justice to, caring nothing for reviews. This is one of those roles and one of the times that reviews aren’t germane.

I give “Criminal” two of five felonious haircuts (but Kevin Costner a solid 4 of 5 fingers-to-nose)

David Crippen, MD, FCCM
Department of Critical Care Medicine
Administrative Assistant- Pat Kretzmer 412 647 8410

“The Edge… there is no honest way to explain it
because the only people who really know where
it is are those who’ve gone over it”.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

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