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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

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Criminal (2016) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“Criminal” (2016) opens in medias res on an all but deserted beach with waves pounding in. An experimental subject, one Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), tells us, “They messed with my brain. They thought they knew what they'd get, but they were wrong.”

Cut back to London-based CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) looking furtively around as he enters a shop to make a pickup. He goes out the back way, stops to phone home but noticing he's being observed hangs up (“Gotta go. Call you back.”) He lifts a motor­bike and a chase ensues.

At the American Embassy, CIA station, London, their screen monitors pick up the pursuit, and they notice, “Duffle's gone. Money's gone”—he stashed it some­where. He switches to a cab driven by licensee Boyd William, telling him to just drive. At Hornlink Way he offers the cabbie a bonus for some fast driving to a concrete factory and gives William the coordinates for his GPS. (Real London taxi­cab drivers have "the knowledge" and don't need GPS, but American audiences don't know that.) Spanish anarchist Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Mollà) conveniently hacks into the cabbie's GPS and redirects the cab to a slaughter­house where the agent is captured and tortured for the where­abouts of computer hacker Jan Stroop, aka “the Dutchman” (Michael Pitt). When the calvary arrives, they find, “Agent not responsive” (i.e. dead except for a remaining spark in his gray matter.) They need to find out where Billy stashed the Dutchman before they get in Dutch when he sells his super “wormhole” hack to some­one else.

The CIA contacts American scientist Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) saying, “Your memory program is going live.” At the U.S. Penitentiary in Hazelton, W.Va., they draft prisoner Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner) straight from the hole, before he can even finish his lunch, for the first human trial of memory transfer from a recently dead brain to a living one. He suffers from frontal lobe syndrome making him a blank slate for the procedure. A child­hood trauma impaired his higher functioning, so all he is left with is his brain stem, the so called reptilian brain that controls sex and survival instincts making it impossible for him to relate to society in any normal way (“He feels nothing.”) Nobody is going to miss him.

They fly him to England and strap him down for the procedure (“What happened to that other guy?”) When he wakes up and can't remember any­thing from Pope, CIA London Station Chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman) orders his disposal, but Dr. Frank[enstein]s' monster escapes in transit, makes a spectacle of him­self on the London streets, and then garners our sympathy when Billy's loving memories of family begin to assert them­selves inside his head. He passes himself off as Billy's friend to Billy's little daughter Emma (Lara Decaro) and even begins to win the trust of Bill's widow Jill (Gal Gadot). The bad guys take advantage of this twist by snatching the kid and offering to trade her life for the truly dangerous encrypted soft­ware Jericho has access to.


In this woo-woo Sci-Fi plot, two interrelated goals play out: the CIA wants the current location of the Dutch­man from Pope's memory imprinted in Jeicho's brain, and Jericho wants to pursue a future based on the emotions from Pope imprinted in his head. They are not mutually exclusive; family memories trigger operational ones.

1 Corinthians 7If we're exploring biblical parallels, we have to look at the mystical side. St. Joseph was wanting to build a future with the Virgin Mary as, (Matt. 1:20) “the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” Joseph was going to bail on her because the kid wasn't his, but the angel stopped him. Because the child was implanted by the Holy Ghost, he saw a future with Mary. The other element for comparison is the new convert to Christianity who has an unconverted spouse in whom, according to the apostle Paul, is implanted a sanctifying love: (1Cor. 7:13-14) “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” The children are holy, so it's OK. The unbeliever is sanctified by the believer as was Jericho by Bill's implanted memory of Jill (“Billy Pole's personality is affecting your personality.”) For the sake of the believing spouse, Christ implants His care in the unbelieving one. As Jericho puts it, “Billy could never hurt you and neither could I.” In the movie Jericho gets his meds from the New Cross Pharmacy, establishing the agency of the Cross, as it were. In the Bible the two sides, future and present, are linked by the questions of a believer having future marriage to an unbeliever, referred to Paul's assessment of a current marriage to one, by way of the angel clearing Joseph for entering into marriage with Mary on the same basis. See my brief study on Paul's answers to the Corinthians.

[Warning: raw language quoted in the following ¶s.]

Jericho describes his childhood head injury thus: his mom while driving told his dad that Jericho was not his, so his dad called his mom a whore and threw Jericho through the wind­shield. In “Criminal” Jericho now loose stops by a café and surprises him­self by ordering in French—Billy's skill set. The counter girl on request even trans­lates it for him. Jericho then turns to a customer standing there and tells him with a smirk, “I'm speaking mother-fucking Spanish.” The customer corrects him, “You're not speaking m-f Spanish. You're speaking m-f French.” At this Jericho punches him hard in the nose. Let's see how that worked out as an insult.

A hypothetical Indo-Hittite language is the progenitor of Indo European languages including English, French & Spanish. Mother-fucking Spanish according to Jericho would have fucked Indo-Hittite. According to the other customer, though, it was French that fucked the mother language. Looked at that way, Indo-Hittite was a whore, and Jericho speaking words he doesn't under­stand was illegitimate. So he hit the guy for calling him a bastard. Okay.

That's if we take the gerund m-f as an intensive adjective modifying the nouns Spanish & French. A more reasonable way to look at it is with the gerund mother-fucking used adverbially to modify the verb speaking, meaning speaking in a way that just shouldn't be. It's as when one says, “I speak halting French,” he's not saying he speaks broken French, but he is speaking French haltingly.

To take a biblical parallel, operating “in the Lord” a widow was advised to do in, (1Cor. 7:39) “if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” Here this passage is largely mis­under­stood when people read “only in the Lord” as a poorly constructed adjectival prepositional phrase modifying whom she's at liberty to marry instead of correctly as an adverbial prepositional phrase modifying the action verb. The former mis­inter­pret­ation—now printed up in loose bible trans­lations—has led to heavy-handed rebukes of widows (and singles) whose mate selection doesn't meet some­one's standard.

As the film winds down Jericho can give up the girl to the terrorist to save the world from a hacker's mayhem, or he can spare the girl by giving the terrorist his dream soft­ware. Obviously the CIA would rather him sacrifice one innocent girl than send the whole world into chaos. Jericho, on the other hand, now that he experiences emotions, is inclined to make an emotional decision in favor of the girl, figuring the world can look after itself. Jericho figures the Spanish anarchist who “lives by the sword dies by the sword”; what he set in motion will come back on him.

‘What goes around comes around’ is evidently derived from, (Prov. 26:27) “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.” That rolling stone goes round and round, up and down, and bonk, the roller gets struck him­self, only now we're in the age of missiles. As for digging a pit, Billy's bag was buried in a pit dug out of books by author George Orwell of 1984 fame. This movie shows us to be in the age of surveillance—Big brother is definitely watching. For that matter this exposure suggests the previous proverb, (Prov. 26:26) “Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.” That brings us to the parallel with, (2Cor. 6:14) “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ...” part of Paul's extensive exhortation to “the whole congregation” of Corinth not to entangle them­selves with heathen customs in their service and worship. The Russians in the movie gaining access to our military control would put America as “unequally yoked” with Communism in the worst way. The CIA wouldn't want that, and for that matter the clergy and other believers are equally ready to sacrifice an “unequally yoked” marriage a believer is wanting to enter rather than jeopardize the purity of the whole congregation. But the enamored believer might want to follow his emotions instead. Removing the thee's & thou's from our Bibles entails taking out the plural ye's as well, making it easy for people quoting the “Be not unequally yoked” message to substitute a singular (implied) you to apply as a proof text to that poor brother or sister wanting to marry someone not of the faith. I'm just pointing out that the apostle Paul in my King James Bible was not addressing marriage when he told the congregation as a whole not to mix it with heathens in their service and worship, and when he addresses (mixed) marriage, he does not incorporate the “Be ye not unequally yoked” command. As I read the Bible and follow the movie, the poor bloke can follow his emotions and not worry about the rest. He can marry the girl of his dreams and stay anchored in his church that other­wise maintains purity in its service and worship. I'm just a reviewer showing there is a parallel.

Production Values

This film, “” (2016) was directed by Ariel Vromen and written by Douglas Cook & David Weisberg who together co-wrote 1996's “The Rock”. It stars Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds. The cast plays it straight, although in a movie that seems to switch genres midstream, the actors look confused about their motivations from one moment to the next. Gary Oldman struggles with his stock dialogue. Gal Gadot gives a solid per­formance as Pope's wife, but she seemed detached from Costner as she awkwardly tried to accommodate him. Reynolds looked good, but he wasn't the star. Tommy Lee Jones as the scientist was scarcely seen. As the young daughter, Lara Decaro pulled off her bit with aplomb. In a nut­shell the acting didn't get in the way of the plot that kept changing around; every­one stayed trance-like in his place until we and they figured out what that was.

MPAA rated it R for strong violence and language through­out. It was filmed in the UK and the USA. This is the second film where Ryan Reynolds's characters go through mystical trans­for­mations. In 2015's Self/Less Ryan Reynolds's character receives the essence of Ben Kingsley's. In this one Reynolds is the donor. Here hand-held cameras were used in action scenes where tripods and dollies would have made for smoother takes.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Criminal” (2016) starts out as a roaring action film, then changes to a Sci-Fi create-a-monster movie, then to a misunder­stood monster flick, and eventually to one about daddy's-friend-who-comes-home-from-the-war-and-he's-a-lot-like-daddy-who-was-killed. In the end we need a deus ex machina resolution of a Greek drama. Although I am in no way promoting drug use, this one should be stacked with movies to watch while high. There's bound to be all kinds of insight to be derived from it for an open mind. Jericho/Boyd is a feminist's dream of a guy who'll phone home if he's running late, do his part of the house­work, and let his wife handle weapons.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: None of the Above. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.