This film brings to mind David Mamet’s “House of Games,” which had a similar twisting plot and clipped, cynical characters.  But Mamet is an expert, and this can’t compare.  Although the ruse worked, the plot – rather than the characters – drives the film.  I also felt overwhelmed by the drab browns that dominate Chris Menge’s Los Angeles landscape, and the paltry scores only served to underscore the film’s blandness.  It was all a bit too “’70s caper heist” for me – definitely nothing new under this sun.

“Criminal” ends with the “really” bad guy getting his due, while the “less bad” thieves and cons come out on top.  It’s a familiar take on the “honor among thieves” cliché which feels satisfying at first, until you realize that the comeuppance only comes at the price of an even bigger con.  It’s a common Hollywood plot construction, but it drives home the point that immorality can only be fought by more immorality – a tragic myth that leaves us to our own human devices. 

Adult viewers may choose to use this opportunity to discuss what it means to “be as wise as serpents but as gentle as doves” when it comes to trusting strangers, how easy it is to be deceived, and the isolation that dishonesty inevitably brings.

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:   Characters drink and smoke cigarettes in bars/restaurants/casinos.
  • Language/Profanity:  At least five dozen f—words, plus another 18 or so mild obscenities and profanities.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Characters talk about f-ing in several scenes; character says he “can’t be without a girl;” rear view of men (fully dressed) urinating; reference to someone looking like a “raped virgin.”
  • Violence:   Characters wave guns around, yell and threaten violence; reference to the Russian mafia who will kill someone who doesn’t pay his debt; pushing and shoving.