Last year a movie called Self/Less was released – and while it cleverly used a slash in the title, I never got around to it. Although, I never felt any pressure to see it, because the trailers seemed to show the entire movie. Essentially, Ben Kingsley played an dying billionaire who decides to undergo a suspicious new medical procedure that will insert his consciousness into a younger, more Ryan Reynolds-y body. Upon insertion, he’s having a great time living it up in his younger body – but then the memories of the younger body start getting in the way, and the billionaire begins to realize that the procedure was maybe not all it was cracked up to be.
Criminal has a similar flavor to that idea. For some reason it also reminds me of the movie Enemy of the State.
CIA agent Bill Pope is stationed in London, and has been living there with his wife and daughter. He gets contacted by ‘the Dutchman’, a hacker who has taken over the American Military computer systems and is using them as a hostage to demand asylum. You see, he’s just escaped the clutches of a Spanish Anarchist who wants the computer program the Dutchman created for himself.
Bill is going to get the Dutchman out of London when his plan goes awry, and he gets killed by the Spaniard, prior to telling anyone the Dutchman’s location. The CIA contacts Dr. Franks, a doctor who has been experimenting with memory relocation. He’s been pretty successful in taking the memories from one rat and putting them in another, and CIA agent Quaker Wells (now that’s an action movie name if I’ve ever heard one), wants him to try it with the recently deceased Agent Pope.
In order to complete the procedure, Dr. Franks needs a special subject as the host – someone with a frontal lobe injury. Of course, front lobe injuries are rare, and apparently result in the person being a complete and total sociopath – or psychopath. They find their candidate in career criminal Jericho Stewart (another great name). Jericho has no sense of morality or right and wrong. He’s killed a bunch of people, and is horribly violent.
The procedure works – mostly, and so now both the Spaniard and the CIA need Jericho to remember where Bill stashed the Dutchman before it’s too late.
That’s really all I’m going to say about it, because I really enjoyed this movie and I think you should check it out. It is directed by Ariel Vromen, an Israeli director whose last American movie was called the Iceman. It’s shot with a lot of hand-held camera work, so it’s a bit unsteady here and there, but that does help add to the tension of the story. There’s also a lot of close-ups – especially on Kevin Costner, but again – that seems to serve the story pretty well. The cast is what sold me on this movie, and was why I went even though I knew almost nothing about it.
- This is definitely a Kevin Costner movie – and I will say that I haven’t seen him this good in quite a while. He plays Jericho Steward and starts as an absolute villain of the worst sort. Basically, he’s ideal for the procedure because he’s expendable. Costner is great as a bad guy and doesn’t do it nearly enough. What is really interesting though is how he masterfully subtly shifts the performance as Jericho starts to be more and more guided by what used to be Bill Pope.
- Gary Oldman is once again excellent as CIA agent Quaker Wells – he’s bound and determined to finish the operation and find the Dutchman, nevermind who gets in the way. He’s driven and focused.
- Tommy Lee Jones plays Dr. Franks and does a really good job of being quietly concerned almost the entire time. It’s a really understated, scientific performance, which I really enjoyed.
- Ryan Reynolds plays Bill Pope – but only for a few minutes of hastily running around London avoiding people. I think that’s where the similarity to Enemy of the State came in – the beginning has a similar feel to the beginning of that movie. It’s a lot of very tense action.
- Jordi Molla plays the Spanish Anarchist, Xavier Heimdahl. He’s a bit one-note as a crazy villain, but he’s sufficiently creepy to pull that off in an interesting way. If you want to see him a little louder and crazier – check out Riddick.
- Gal Gadot plays Bill’s wife Jill Pope. She’s devastated when her husband died, but has to go through those emotions again when Jericho starts creeping around the house and telling her things he shouldn’t know. She does a really good job – but I did want her to just kick his ass – Wonder Woman side-effect, I guess.
- Michael Pitt plays the elusive and creepy Dutchman. He’s also a bit one note – but his note is desperate, so it keeps him interesting.
Overall, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting anything – I was really impressed with this movie. It’s just shy of two hours, and I didn’t feel the length, which is always a good sign. I will say that I was disappointed in the very last scene. Personally I think the movie could have had a stronger ending had they chosen to go a different way. You’ll probably get what I mean, but if you don’t – see it and let me know what you thought of the end!
8 out of 10 – a surprisingly tense little thriller. Gained points for Costner being really good (not something I’d ever though I would say), gained points for Oldman. Lost points for not enough Colin Salmon. But you know, everything with Colin Salmon has not enough Colin Salmon for me! If you have not Netflixed Master of None yet – do it, if only for the Colin Salmon (although the rest of it is really good too)!
Bonus – cast interviews
Enemy of the State – if you never saw this, go back and watch it – it’s really good.