The star-studded and high-octane action film “Criminal” headlines Kevin Costner, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman in a fresh, provocative spin on the espionage action-thriller that probes the secret world of memory and identity, as it propels an unwitting death row killer into the consciousness of a dedicated CIA agent in a ferocious race against time.
After playing the snarky superhero Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds takes on a more clean-cut character as he plays top CIA agent Bill Pope in “Criminal,” who was on an important mission who holds the key of secrets in the recesses of his mind. In order to extract vital information, his memories, skills, and training were transplanted into hardened criminal Jericho Stewart’s (Kevin Costner) brain. The procedure was performed by a neuroscientist (Tommy Lee Jones) under the orders and close monitoring of the CIA chief (Gary Oldman).
What they didn’t count on was that Stewart was also able to absorb the other aspects of Pope’s memories, particularly his love for family and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. The fallen agent’s wife, Jill Pope (Gal Gadot) helps convince him of his purpose. For the first time in his life, the criminal was able to clearly distinguish right from wrong and sets about to save the world.
The criminal becomes the hunted yet again, but this time he is on the side of the law. The mission is in the memories and every memory holds a clue. He has 48 hours to find a valuable CIA asset called The Dutchman in order to foil an international terrorist’s plans.
Aside from the intriguing premise, “Criminal” is jam-packed with enough action scenes, explosions, and car chases to satisfy the hardcore action-genre fan. What is likewise interesting to note is that this is the second collaboration of top-draw film stars Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones following the 1991 thought-provoking film “JFK.”
Director Ariel Vromen – who came to the fore with his previous work in the chilling crime story “The Iceman” – saw in “Criminal’s” action-packed story a chance to create a hybrid: to fuse elements of an unnerving psychological battle and mind-twisting sci-fi with the classic cat-and-mouse espionage game. He was drawn to the story’s scientifically provocative central idea: memory transfer, the ability to lock a person’s most intimate and individual sensations, hopes and flashbacks into a total stranger’s brain. Though amnesia and memory loss have long been staples of the cinematic thriller, this story came at it in an opposite way. For “Criminal” is the story of a man gaining memories that both put him on a collision course with a terrorist and change the very foundations of who he believes he is.
The mix of searing, high-octane action with the psychological intensity of a man trying to figure out if he is killer or savior was irresistible. "This is a big thriller. We have massive action sequences with cars, helicopter and the huge Airbus 400, along with intense fight scenes and excitement,” Vromen points out. “However, I believe today's audiences are also looking for something beyond thrilling explosions and car crashes. I felt the unique journey of Jerico's growth into a different person could be just as exciting as the non-stop action.”