To stop an international terrorist, the memories and skills of a CIA operative are implanted into the brain of a dangerous criminal.
Criminal is directed by Ariel Vromen, whose previous film was the critically acclaimed The Iceman. Boasting a stunning cast which includes Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Tommy Lee Jones and Alice Eve, Criminal is an action-packed, cat-and-mouse espionage thriller which successfully fuses mind-twisting sci-fi into the mix.
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.
Says Vromen: "Our main character, Jericho (Kevin Costner), is a person who starts with no feelings and no real emotions and then he goes on an incredible journey. He acquires all these memories from CIA agent Bill Pope’s mind and he has to react to an entirely new view of life. Because of the massively high stakes, that core emotional story is surrounded by a plot that has great suspense and lots of action. That really appealed to me.
"This is a big thriller. We have massive action sequences with cars, helicopters 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 Jericho's growth into a different person could be just as exciting as the non-stop action.”
It was great to see the double Oscar-winning Kevin Costner in one of his most challenging and unusual roles. As Jericho, Costner had to inhabit two characters at once – that of a hard-bitten, unfeeling criminal capable of anything, and that of a patriotic spy and family man driven to do good – and find the ways those two fuse in one man’s reeling mind.
Costner says of his reaction to the script: “I'm always attracted to projects when they are multi-layered and this story is very much that. Criminal is definitely an action movie but I responded most strongly to the complexity of my character, to all the confusion and turmoil that is scrambled up inside Jericho as he comes to terms with what he is experiencing."
He goes on: "When we meet Jericho, he is in prison and has spent most of his life there. An injury he suffered as a child rendered him a sociopath, so he has no understanding that the things he does are wrong. He just reacts, sometimes violently, sometimes humorously. He is so unpredictable that he is not even allowed near anyone in jail. But after his operation, Jericho starts going back and forth between who he was and who Bill Pope is. He’s very mixed-up and suddenly he’s comprehending things and having sensations that he’s never experienced before on every level. And that’s what I had to figure out how to portray.”
Ariel Vromen says he couldn’t have imagined a better choice. “We’re so used to Kevin playing lovable, charming characters,” says the director, “I thought it would be exciting to break him down and then reintroduce the charm. The challenge was could Kevin be that mean, angry, raw and violent – but Kevin was amazing. The duality that he projects is intense and he was able to reach all the different emotional levels of Jericho's journey. No one will have ever seen Kevin play a role like this before and that is a very exciting prospect for a director.”
Costner gives equal credit to Vromen. “Ariel was so certain I was right to play Jericho. I kept looking in the mirror, questioning why me? I'm Kevin Costner, I'm a cowboy, I play baseball,” he admits. “But not for Ariel. That determination made me respond to him that much more as a director. Ariel brings something to Criminal that another director would not. There is an ‘Ariel energy’ that I'm sure will become his signature."
The futuristic, yet science-based concepts that lie behind Criminal emerged from the minds of the screenwriting team of Douglas Cook and David Weisberg, who previously wrote the hit prison escape thriller The Rock, among others. Cook and Weisberg became intrigued by cutting-edge research in neurobiology, brain architecture and artificial intelligence which suggests that the processes that make up our innermost minds might soon be mappable – and consciousness itself might become transferable from one human mind to a machine or even another human being. Some people call it the development of Humanity 2.0.
It is certainly a great premise for a film and makes Criminal a unique experience that had us glued to our seat. We are looking forward to the next film from Ariel Vromen!
Criminal is out at Showcase Cinemas from Friday April 15