Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

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Newest 'Mind in Another's Body' Movie is Criminal-ly Average

Newest 'Mind in Another's Body' Movie is <i>Criminal</i>-ly Average

Criminal is a new but predictable entry in the "one man's memories in another man's body" genre. The cast list is impressive but the movie is ho-hum. Take your popcorn to another show and wait for this one to be rent-able, which shouldn't take long. 2.5 out of 5.


When a CIA operative (Ryan Reynolds) is killed, vital information that only he knows dies with him. Enter a doctor (Tommy Lee Jones) with a radical procedure that copies memories from one brain to another. Problem is, the new brain belongs to a psychopath (Kevin Costner) who may or may not decide to play along. The fate of the world hangs in the balance as good and evil fight for control inside one very confused brain.

What Works?

The whole Jekyll and Hyde vibe works thanks to Costner. He makes Jericho, his complicated character, engaging, even when engaging in senseless brutality. Brain-damaged by a childhood injury, Jericho is a clueless kid trapped in a man's body­—who suddenly has a mature grownup in his head. The skills he obtains as a result pop out when least expected, making for some of the best moments in the film. Jones brings his own world-weary charm to his role as the dedicated doctor who performs the operation. Unfortunately we don't see much of him; the size of his part seems to be a waste of resources.

What Doesn't?

There's a whole "been there, done that" feeling to Criminal. It's okay, but it's just that: okay. It's funny-ish, suspenseful-ish, violent-ish... but not quite enough of any of those things. If a body-swapping action adventure is what you want, you'd be better off renting 2015’s superior version, Self/less (also starring Ryan Reynolds).

The characterization of a CIA agency chief (Gary Oldman) as an impetuous, erratic cowboy, constantly flying off the handle and running off after the wrong man, is just annoying. It's not really Oldman’s fault; he's probably only as irritating as that character should be, but if the fate of the world rests in hands like his, we're all doomed.

Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes

Jericho's personal code hearkens back to the days before Moses; instead of "an eye for an eye" he warns, "You hurt me, I hurt you worse." None of this memory-switching technology accounts for the concept of a soul, but in some ways, the struggle between good and evil inside Jericho's head is an example of the internal battle all men and women face on a daily basis.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)

  • MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout 
  • Language/Profanity: The f-bomb is the expletive of choice; it makes multiple appearances in all its forms, once even between “Jesus” and “Christ.” Other coarse language is consistent throughout.
  • Sexuality/Nudity: A woman is shown in her pajamas (shorts); she is secured to a bed and sexual activity is hinted at but not quite shown.
  • Violence/Frightening/Intense: A man is tortured with a cattle prod; multiple people are shot, beaten, blown up, and otherwise injured or killed in a variety of gruesome ways; there are graphic scenes of brain surgery that include a man with half his head missing. A child is placed in danger. Bombs explode, cars crash, and so on; the intensity is fairly constant throughout.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Jericho is shot multiple times with a tranquilizer gun, injected with medications prior to surgery, and later demands drugs. Alcohol is served on occasion but it's not a big part of the plot.

The Bottom Line

RECOMMENDED FOR: Viewers who enjoy the kind of grown-up fairy tales that involve nefarious plots, crazy bad guys, and unlikely heroes. Kevin Costner fans. Also, viewers who think Ryan Reynolds is dreamy and don't mind that he doesn't stick around long.

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Movie-goers looking for something new; squeamish viewers turned off by the sight of blood; CIA agents; anyone on a tight budget (save your money and rent it later).

Criminal, directed by Ariel Vromen, opened in theaters April 15, 2016; available for home viewing July 26, 2016. It runs 113 minutes and stars Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Jordi Molla and Gal Gadot. Watch the trailer for Criminal here.

Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).

Publication date: April 15, 2016