" I don’t want to cross the line, Lou; I just want to move it "
— Dustin Hoffman, Mad City

MRQE Top Critic

November

Walks you out of an emotional underworld back into the light —Marty Mapes (review...)

Cox lives three times in November

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This Criminal should be locked up for crimes against moviegoers.

The Last Cowboy

Jerico is a brain-damaged criminal
Jerico is a brain-damaged criminal

The ludicrous scenario behind Criminal involves a Dutch hacker, a Spanish anarchist and an American convict. It sounds like the setup for some sort of joke, but this movie is so off-kilter it lost its punchline.

The titular criminal is Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams). He was thrown from a car when he was a child after his mother let her lover know he wasn’t the boy’s father. Brain damaged, Jerico became a dangerous (and well-tanned) convict. He doesn’t understand how people are supposed to behave and he talks like he’s Batman, sporting a deep, throaty voice — but without the cowl.

As it happens, Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds, Woman in Gold) is a CIA operative working in London. He’s killed in the early going and it falls upon Dr. Micah Franks (Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive) to transplant Bill’s memories into another human being. Micah’s tested the process on other mammals, but human testing is still off in the future.

Well, Micah has 48 hours to make that future happen and right off the top of his head he identifies Jerico as the perfect recipient because of some mumbo-jumbo about dead brain cells and what-not. At first blush, it sounds preposterous. And as done here, it is preposterous.

But how about this April 13, 2016, headline from the New York Times? “Chip, Implanted in Brain, Helps Paralyzed Man Regain Control of Hand.” Today’s far-fetched movie notions are often tomorrow’s real science.

Duke Nukem

Why 48 hours to rush through this risky memory transplant? That’s where the Dutchman and the Spaniard enter the picture. Nuclear weapons. Backstabbing. Anarchy. As Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Molla, Colombiana), the snippy anarchist, says, “Governments must fall!” But he doesn’t want to stop there. Governments have gotta go, but so do religions and businesses. Nuke ‘em all!

Micah transfers Bill’s memories (and the accompanying skills and knowledge) to Jerico. Then begins the action. And that’s when everything goes down the tubes.

What Jerico does oftentimes makes no sense. Okay. The guy has brain damage. Got it. But after the surgery (which leaves him scarred and a little bloody — but without even a single gauze bandage on his noggin), it’s nigh impossible to tell who’s more brain damaged: Jerico or the screenwriters.

Let’s start with a ridiculous escape sequence. Confined in the back seat of a car with shoddy restraints, Jerico chews off a passenger door strap with his bare teeth, fashions a weapon and stabs it into the neck of an agent in the front passenger seat. In turn, he causes a two-car crash, leaving three people dead.

Walking away from it all, Jerico doesn’t take any wallets for cash and credit cards.

No. That’d make sense. And he’s brain damaged.

Instead he robs a fast food joint (somewhere in London, by the way) — armed with only his bad attitude — and he then carjacks a van, beating down a whole bunch of dudes in the process. Bill’s memories are kickin’ in, so from there Jerico heads to Bill’s home and assaults his wife, Jill (Gal Gadot, Batman v Superman).

Jerico settles down a bit as memories of Bill with Jill and their daughter seep into his head. In order to support himself, he takes some items from the Pope household, goes to the effort of finding a pawn shop and looks to exchange the items for a few quid. Well, wait a minute. He’ll keep the hairbrush after all; it belongs to Bill’s kid.

Wow.

Psycho Writers

Topping it off, this nut job Jerico, who bit off a whole door strap, has a hard time opening a bottle of prescription pills.

At this point, the question is raised: Is humor a second (or third... maybe even fourth) language to the screenwriters? As it turns out they’re David Weisberg and the late Douglas Cook, who co-wrote the semi-classic Michael Bay flick The Rock 20 years ago. What in the name of Zeus’ butthole happened to their storytelling sensibilities? Was the screenplay butchered by director Ariel Vromen (The Iceman)?

In pretty much all respects, Criminal is a failure. The cast is solid, for the most part. Costner is usually at least fun to watch; Gadot is a rising star. But Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Rises) is a bit annoying as a high-strung MI5 operative (branded with another one of this movie’s colorful character names: Quaker Wells, surely no relation to Quaker Oats). And Tommy Lee Jones... Well, he’s perfectly cast as Tommy Lee Jones once again.

As an antihero, Jerico makes Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool look as dapper and sophisticated as James Bond. Jerico is an interesting character, at least for a couple minutes, as he grows sympathetic toward Bill’s wife and daughter. But there simply isn’t enough there to root for anybody in this mess.

The desperation of the nuclear situation is nothing compared to the desperation of the filmmakers as they try to ratchet up the tension with a silly point of climactic conflict for Jerico to resolve all on his own: Does he rush back to Micah, who out of nowhere starts promising a second surgery that will fix him up for good, or does he follow Quaker’s demands and stop the anarchist, thus averting nuclear catastrophe and saving the world? Both need to be done. Right. Frickin’. Now. !.

In 3 Days to Kill, Costner found a playful — and highly underrated — spin on the Liam Neeson-style action flick. Here, those same ambitions seem to apply, but the result is a tonal jumble of violence, odd humor and impenetrable characters.