Criminal Review - A Hard Hitting, Thrilling, Espionage Action Drama

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Criminal, from Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment, presents a contemporary thrill ride through the inner chambers of London's CIA Terror Bureau as the world’s most sophisticated technology falls into the wrong hands creating a cataclysmic, high powered stakes, collision.

Directed by Ariel Vromen, Criminal stars  Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Alice Eve, Michael Pitt, Jordi Molla, antje Traue, Scott Adkins, Amaury Nolasco, Danny Webb, Colin Salmon and scene stealing Lara Decaro and Emma PopeCriminal was written by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg.

Criminal opens in London, with a volley of screen shots as the intensity begins to heighten between the CIA base, led by Quaker Wells, the London CIA Bureau Chief, played by Gary Oldman and Bill Pope, played by Ryan Reynolds, a member of the elite undercover CIA Team in London.

Pope is weaving in and out of The Tube stations, around the streets, in alley ways always aware that he is watched, tracked and monitored. He telephones his wife, Jill, played by Gal Gadot and daughter, Emma, played by Lara Decaro. He drops the last tracking device.

The CIA is working to stop an active imminent threat hoping to stop a maniac from acquiring software that bypasses national security codes for every government including the U.S. leaving every nation vulnerable to attack.

With the rise in terror throughout Europe, London has become a hotbed for terror operatives, Pope, a top agent, is working out a deal with an unknown entity the information of which is very valuable to the multiple foreign terror governments of the world.

On his way to the rendezvous point Pope is followed. Trusting those who desire to rule by the sword are less intelligent or sophisticated is the first agency wide mistake. Coordinates are overridden by Xavier Heimdahl, evil personified, played by Jordi Molla.

What began as a tactical exchange ends with the capture, torture and murder of CIA operative Bill Pope. The torture is stunning. Shocking. Beyond even screaming current headlines and believable.

His death ushers in the second act. Soon the CIA and top terror agents are meeting with Dr. Franks, a brain trauma specialist developing radical science and technology that allows for the transfer of memories from one subject to another.

Clearly cutting edge and one step from human trials the technology is discussed in elitist circles as the moral, ethical and legal violations of the final privacy frontier, hidden thoughts of the mind revealed, could put another in danger. First Amendment defenders would have a field day with the ramifications of its possibilities.

For our purposes, we have the same reservations, Pope died and he has brain activity, the only caveat to the realization of the technology. Soon, the CIA Team is listening to Dr. Franks pitch his sociopath career criminal candidate Jerico Stewart. So mentally deranged when we meet him, he is chained in his cell, tethered to the ceiling, by a dog collar. 

In order for the transfer to the national/global security information stored in the physically dead mind of Bill Pope major brain surgery is necessary.

So convict Stewart is flown, sedated, to London for the surgery. After the initial transfer, like everything, Wells, who is dealing with a high alert terror situation, a countdown of nuclear proportions, a dead agent whom he was fond of, technology he limitedly comprehends, he could care less about the recovery time necessary for our subject, he want it to work, Now. When it doesn’t produce instantons results he orders Jerico taken and killed.

What follows as Jerico escapes the two CIA hit men is the balance between the memories of Bill Pope, loyal, loving, an intense man with a high level risk employment and Jerico, who is a sociopath taught to kill or be killed, full of hate without a belief that his actions will result in anything other than the same results.

Within the memories are stored the two extremes in his life, the current motivations for his death and his touchstone, wife Jill and daughter Emma. Jerico begins to be effected, instantaneously, without the ability to control, by Bill Pope's memories.

Some of the scenes, as Jerico would be considered anti-social on a mild level with Pope being the opposite, polite, refined as he switches between the personalities are comical.

Initially the flashbacks are almost a kaleidoscope, a collage of moments lost, and for the man who has no real understanding of what was done, why, for whom, it is bizarre leading, pulling him to places he has never been, people, he has never known, intimacies never shared, and with knowledge and authority he is able to rise to a situation, and lead to an acceptable end.

Throughout these changes, to Dr. Franks Jerico is the realization of a lifetime of work and deserves to be treated well. For Wells, Jerico is a convict, a killer and deserves no special treatment and is as much as the enemy as the terrorist and with that the law holds no boundaries. For others, he becomes the one person who can rescue them, kill or stop them. He is a challenge, an enigma, a riddle, the pawn and hope.

I’m very impressed with Criminal. This film is a perfect blend of human emotion, cutting edge science, an up-to-date espionage, set in London, for us anglophiles a destination of the imagination. Criminal will take the box office this weekend in its genre.

With the widespread growth of terror networks, and daily terror raids filling the headlines the story is right from the vaults of every secretive, hidden, cloak and dagger, clandestine operation that failed and succeeded. The hidden meets the exposed.

The torture scenes are razor edge sharp. The follow through on the action is phenomenal. Without singling out the violence, I think it is important to add the filmmakers followed through and didn’t end the violence with a mental conclusion. The visuals are present, not gratuitously but conclusionary. What is shown is what happens.

Criminal is gut wrenching, the real deal. It doesn’t hold back or hide presenting modernized Dr. Mengele at work.

With all that said I had reservations about the casting of Kevin Costner as Jerico, the sociopath. His initial introduction is so against type that seeing him tethered to the ceiling in chains didn’t seem plausible and then his performance was mind blowing, beyond imagination. He became convincing of both the change and the background.

Criminal assembled a cast of players that present an exciting, exhilarating, gut-wrenching, emotional, action adventure. Entertainment that puts the audience on the inside of an impending terror threat.

Criminal is thrilling from beginning to end. The technology is cutting edge; the science believable, the story every government's nightmare. See it. It’s a winner.

Criminal opens April 15, 2016 in select cities. If you see any film this weekend see Criminal.

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