You have to accept a rather incredible premise in order to fully enjoy the entertaining, if very violent, new crime thriller CriminalIf you can get around the idea that a dead person’s brain DNA can be transferred into a living person, thereby essentially putting thoughts and information into someone else’s head, this is the movie for you.

pete hammond review badgeIn other words, go with it and you are in for one swell performance from Kevin Costner as Jerico Stewart, a hardcore death row prisoner who is chosen as the perfect subject for this “mind altering” experiment. When CIA operative Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is killed, some key information is gone with the wind. But do dead men really tell no tales? Apparently they do, or at least that is what CIA chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) hopes when he recruits Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) to perform the dangerous, untried experiment on Stewart. Of course things go awry afterward when Stewart escapes and sets off on his own mission of terror that leads to Pope’s house and a confrontation with the dead CIA agent’s widow (Gal Gadot) and young daughter. Key to the CIA mission, though, is the whereabouts of a man known as the Dutchman (Michael Pitt), a notorious hacker who has figured out how to break into the entire weaponry of the U.S. military’s central command. Other even more evil forces also are tracking the hacker including Xavier  Heimdahl (Jordi Molla), who wants to get his own hands on the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Stewart becomes key to stopping the ultimate disaster, and it is a race against time in a movie that, despite its ludicrous premise, intriguingly deals with matters of identity in new ways. As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch) there is one key reason to see Criminal and that’s Costner. He seems to be reveling in playing this seemingly one-dimensional bad guy who, as the film goes along, has more to him than we thought. Costner has been on a roll of late with interesting roles in such films as Black or White, Draft Day and McFarland USA. This one, though not as good as those movies overall, puts Costner in his sweet spot as an actor where he plays it to the hilt but never goes overboard. It’s a memorable performance in what would have passed for a B-movie in an earlier era of filmmaking.

Criminal is solidly crafted by helmer Ariel Vroman (The Iceman) and features a great cast including vets Oldman and Jones, but they are not given nearly enough to do. Gadot, Warner Bros’ new Wonder Woman, is terrific and has some nice scenes with Costner. Spoiler alert: If you go thinking Deadpool‘s Reynolds is also a star of this thing, think again. He’s killed off in the first 15 minutes. It has to be one of the quickest exits of a major star in movie history. Janet Leigh even lasted much longer before being shockingly bludgeoned to death in Psycho.

Douglas Cook and David Weisberg wrote the script. The film was produced by JC Spink, Jake Weiner, Matt O’Toole, Mark Gill and Christa Campbell. It comes from Avi Lerner’s  Millennium Pictures and is being released by Summit and Lionsgate on Friday.

Do you plan to see Criminal?  Let us know what you think.