CLUELESS – that’s a new formula that works for me. I find myself hanging in animated suspense watching movies absolutely in the dark about the casting and the storyline. It spikes the thrill and excitement with the elements of surprise and unpredictability.
I have also learned that, just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, a movie should not be judged by its title alone until viewed in its entirety. Not all is lost even for films that can easily be dismissed as forgettables or lacking in substance. When you scratch the surface and look beyond the apparent, the crux of the matter grips you in its raw, profound essence. Even a violence-riddled film can speak in a hushed tone much like a gentle embrace that envelops your core.
The movie title Criminal didn’t strike my fancy at first. But seeing that it was still running the next time I checked the movie line-up the following week, my curiosity was piqued. I surmised, it must be enjoying good patronage to merit an extended run. Sure enough, the cinema was full. The appearance of actors Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner and Gary Oldman on the screen reinforced the seal of quality.
The action thriller film is mentally stimulating, suspenseful, riveting, emotionally-charged and engaging all at the same time. I have yet to learn to dissociate myself from the reel, but the reel has a way of weaving seamlessly into the real, that it strikes the heart chords within. At the outset, it confronts the audience with a jigsaw puzzle to solve. As the story progresses, bits and pieces start falling into place.
CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is on his way to deliver the money and new identity for “Dutchman,” the cyber-hacker who has the key to subvert the enemy’s computer program that is poised to launch a nuclear warhead. The minions of Russian anarchist Hagbardaka Heimbahl (Jordi Molla) track Bill down and successfully blocks his efforts to accomplish his mission through an ambush. The CIA led by bureau head Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) is faced with a blank wall as it races for time to get to the Dutchman first before the enemy camp does. With medical science’s intervention, the brainchild of neurosurgeon Dr. Franks (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones), dead Bill’s memory brain is transplanted into the brain cells of handpicked basket case of an ex-convict Jericho (played by Kevin Costner). They pin their hopes on Jericho to pick up from where Bill left off to foil the evil plot.
Heartless thug Jericho with a criminal mind and beastly instinct who eats violence for breakfast, when wired with the mind of caring family man Bill through memory transference, eventually imbibes the soft stuff that Bill was made of. His close encounters with Bill’s charming wife Jill (Gal Gadot) and adorable daughter Emily (Lara Decaro) activates the mind of Bill. and draws out emotions from Jericho for the first time. Although Jericho tries to do horrible things to mother and child, Bill’s memories prevailed upon him. Jill gives him the benefit of the doubt when Jericho displays Bill’s unique mannerisms and breaks secret codes known only to them. Jericho’s inner being gradually changes as Jill and Emily start to warm up to him.
But as fate would have it, with the failure of CIA agent Bill to deliver the goods to the Dutchman as promised, the Dutchman turns traitor and tries to sell his program to the Russians. Jill and Emily would later fall into the hands of the enemies. Jericho not only saves Bill’s widow and daughter but also saves the world from a nuclear holocaust. Surprisingly, he was permanently transformed into a better person with the capacity to love. The film wraps up with a dramatic, tear-jerking scene that formed a lump in my throat.
Whittling down to the subliminal, insightful message underscored in the film, there is hope of life transformation for “worthless” scums of the earth when they get a taste of acceptance and affection from humanity. But this is one of those occasions where I wish they had left out the graphic, gory details of brutal manslaughter and bloodshed. Nonetheless, my verdict for The Criminal: a very good must-watch material.