Skip to main content

You can’t just punch someone in a patisserie, you animal!

Criminal
(2016)

(SPOILERS) I can’t say I was ever a massive Kevin Costner fan, but I appreciated his ability to fit into a certain sort of role like it was custom made for him; he had that movie star of old quality that suited a bygone era. So I took no particular relish into his descent into the realm of Bodyguards and Waterworlds and Postmen, no matter how respectably several of those performed, although Madge probably thought his box office demise was “neat”. A contemporary of Bruce Willis, both their careers began to splutter about the same time, and Costner’s in particular seemed to be over and done with by the time he reached 40.


Perhaps part of that is both having a face for older roles. Costner doesn’t look a whole lot older now than he did then, particular since he is fully on board with the benefits of a decent wig maker. Like many an actor, his time out of the spotlight – most of this millennium barring the odd pleasant surprise like Open Range and Mr. Brooks – gave way to a second phase. In this case, however, his second phase derived from a supporting role in a not-especially-loved movie (Man of Steel) and has resulted in a succession of vehicles that few have cared for, whether replicating the mentor relationship (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) or taking the starring role (Draft Day) or both (McFarland). The latter two saw him rekindling his flirtation with the sports pic, which did him in good stead for a spell (Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Tin Cup) but he has also attempted to embed himself in a genre that always elicited mixed fortunes.


Costner was never much of an action star. He could appear in vehicles with action in them, but they almost always required something else going on to become a success (The Untouchables, No Way Out). His pursuit of the mantle of geriatric villain buster, in a no-chance competition with reigning champ Liam Neeson, first found him teaming with the man who made Neeson in Taken, Luc Besson, for 3 Days to Kill. While no one was very interested, and McG’s name is considered such poison that few were even going to give it the benefit of the doubt, it’s actually a lot of fun, and Costner’s a lot of fun in it. Would that it were so true of Criminal.


I mean, full marks to Douglas Cook and David Weisberg (The Rock, Double Jeopardy) for the completely barking plot. I have no idea what attracted the cast to sign on (producer Avi Lerner being persuasive, or his cheque book, is the most likely answer), or director Arial Vromen (whose last flick, The Iceman, was at least decent). Ryan Reynolds seems to have a body swap obsession (Self/less, R.I.P.D.), so that might explain his decision to show up for a glorified cameo, before his memories get transferred into Kevin’s psychopath Bill Pope (“He doesn’t understand society, or how people are supposed to behave”) by Dr Franks (Tommy Lee Jones, looking more desiccated than ever; still, it’s nice to see him and Costner sharing a scene or two), so Kev can proceed to provide the information Reynolds had locked away in his noggin, in order to prevent even bigger psychopath Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Molla) from buying a program that will access the globe’s nuclear defence codes from Michael Pitt (as The Dutchman – yes, he wears a vague approximation of a Dutch accent). Although, Xavier’s plan (“I’m calling for the overthrow of all governments”) doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.


Costner playing a really bad guy who turns out not to be so bad after all feels like déjà vu (wasn’t that roughly Waterworld?), and Mr. Brooks was wound up much more effectively in fashioning a tug of war between impulses. Jerico Stewart (!) may slaughter a few people, but as soon as he happens upon Reynold’s gorgeous wife (Gal Gadot) and feels a paternal pull towards his daughter (Lara Decaro), we just know he will metamorphosis into a big softy (“I wish I could keep being him”). Indeed, as absurd as this whole thing is, it’s a little alarming how far Cook and Weisberg push it, right down to a beachfront final scene suggesting Gadot is quite willing to play happy families with a murderer infested with her husband’s memories. What kind of sicko is she, exactly?


The London setting gives rise to the occasional incongruous piece of dialogue (“What’s he doing coming on a fishing boat to Dagenham?”), and actors such as Alice Eve, Scott Adkins and Colin Salmon (to give it that Bond authenticity?) pop up in small roles. Gary Oldman plays an American, by the name of Quaker Wells (!!) and gives a truly dire performance laden with wretched dialogue (“Don’t give him the flash drive! He will SCORCH the Earth!”) Any movie with a special appearance by Piers Morgan is bound to have problems, and if Vromen just about keeps Criminal moving, it’s really the cast and the brazen dumbness of the plot that ensures this is half watchable. Just as well for Kev that Hidden Figures came along when it did, since it means he can now have another second shot at supporting actor acclaim.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Courage is no match for an unfriendly shoe, Countess…

No, it’s not about the bunny.

Twin Peaks 3.3
If the first two episodes tend to the weird/dark, then the second couple are more in favour of the weird/light, once we get past the Eraserhead stuff with the girl in the radiator, I mean Naido (Nae), who is replaced by Teresa Palmer doppelganger American Girl (Phoebe Augustine). The proceedings come complete with staggered editing that’s enough to give you rolling vision and detached retinas, if you’re lucky, as we continue Cooper’s extended mission to return to the real world, or something approximating it.

American Girl: When you get there, you will already be here.
Some of this material is impenetrable and will surely remain so, as he and Naido go up to the roof, which is floating amid the stars, to connect circuitry that will allow Coop to journey back via the mains, and she is thrown off, only for him to now encounter American Girl down below (“You better hurry. My mother’s coming”). The device(s) that sucks Cooper in alternately displays the numbers 3 and 15 on it …

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

What, no cheese and crackers?

Twin Peaks 3.4
If anything, the fourth episode goes even goofier than the third, before sobering up dramatically for the final scene. There’s at least one innocuous cameo here, Richard Chamberlain pulling the equivalent of George Hamilton in The Godfather Part III, but it’s most notable for the arrival of Naomi Watts and Robert Forster, and the return of Dana Ashbrook and David Duchovny. And… Michael Cera?

Wally: My shadow is always with me. Sometimes ahead. And sometimes behind. Sometimes to the left. Sometimes to the right. Except on cloudy days. Or at night.
Maybe the battiest thing in the third season to date, and that’s saying something, is Cera’s appearance as Wally Brando (born on the same day as Marlon), Andy and Lucy’s son, his appearance plays like an extended skit, with Lynch cackling away behind the camera, eager to see how long he can string it out. You pretty much get the impression that, when Forster’s Sheriff Frank Truman, Wally’s godfather, turns heel and walks off, For…

You’re never the same man twice.

The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
(SPOILERS) Roger Moore playing dual roles? It sounds like an unintentionally amusing prospect for audiences accustomed to the actor’s “Raise an eyebrow” method of acting. Consequently, this post-Saint pre-Bond role (in which he does offer some notable eyebrow acting) is more of a curiosity for the quality of Sir Rog’s performance than the out-there premise that can’t quite sustain the picture’s running time. It is telling that the same story was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 15 years earlier, since the uncanny idea at its core feels like a much better fit for a trim 50 minute anthology series.

Basil Dearden directs, and co-adapted the screenplay from Anthony Armstrong’s novel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham. Dearden started out with Ealing, helming several Will Hay pictures and a segment of Dead of Night (one might imagine a shortened version of this tale ending up there, or in any of the portmanteau horrors that arrived in the year…

I'm Mary Poppins, y'all.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Most of the time, we’ll settle for a solid, satisfying sequel, even if we’re naturally going to be rooting for a superlative one. Filmmakers are currently so used to invoking the impossible standard of The Empire Strikes Back/The Wrath of Khan, of advancing character and situation, going darker and encountering sacrifice, that expectations are inevitably tempered. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is indebted to at least some of those sequel tropes, although it’s arguably no darker than its predecessor, if more invested in character development. Indeed, for a series far more rooted (grooted?) in gags than any other in the Marvel wheelhouse, it’s ironic that its characterisations thus far have been consistently more satisfyingly realised than in any of their other properties.

Perhaps the most significant aspect writer-director James Gunn is clearly struggling with here is how to keep things fresh knowing he’s developed an instantly satisfyin…

I’m supposed to watch the box and see if anything appears inside.

Twin Peaks 3.1 & 3.2
(SPOILERS) Well, Lynch hasn’t lost it, that much is clear. Not his marbles, which he never had, of course, but his capacity for weirdness, hilarity, discord and the outright disturbing, all of which are brewing away potently in Season Three of Twin Peaks. What’s most striking, though, and something I’ve occasionally found a detraction from his work, is that the presence of Mark Frost ensures there’s a lucid narrative thread upon which to hang his strange fascinations. It means that, even when we go on a diversion into five minutes of plot-free surrealism, or one of Lynch’s trademark crawl-act comedies (which are sublime, as long as you’re willing to pace yourself), it won’t be long before (potentially remaining unanswered) mystery and intrigue will pull us back on track.

I’d read, not least from Lynch himself, that his prequel movie Fire Walk with Me would indicate the tone of Season Three, but that might be a touch misleading. If you took the first act, the no…

Slice him where you like, a hellhound is always a hellhound.

Jeeves and Wooster 2.1: Jeeves Saves the Cow Creamer
(aka The Silver Jug) Season Two of Jeeves and Wooster continues the high standard of the previous year’s last two episodes, appropriately since it takes after its literary precedent; Season One ended with a two-part adaptation of Right Ho, Jeeves, which PG Wodehouse followed four years later with The Code of the Woosters. Published in 1938, it was the third full-length outing for Bertie and his genius gentleman’s gentleman, and the first time Plum visited Totleigh Towers, home of imperious nerve specialist Sir Watykn Bassett. If I say “Spode”, and add “Eulalie”, its classic status in the canon will no doubt come flooding back to you.

Sir Watkyn has already graced our screens, of course, in the very first episode, adapting Bertram Wilberforce’s recollection from this very The Code of the Woosters of his policeman’s hat-stealing incident, and for the most part, like the season finale before it, Clive Exton recognises a good thing when he …

Jeeves, you really are the specific dream rabbit.

Jeeves and Wooster 2.2: A Plan for Gussie  (aka The Bassetts’ Fancy Dress Ball)
The cow creamer business dispatched, the second part of this The Code of the Woosters adaptation preoccupies itself with further Gussie scrapes, and the continuing machinations of Stiffy. Fortunately, Spode is still about to make things extra unpleasant.

Sir Roderick delivers more of his winning policies (“the Right to be issued with a British bicycle and an honest, British-made umbrella”) and some remarkably plausible-sounding nonsense political soundbites (“Nothing stands between us and victory except our defeat!”, “Tomorrow is a new day; the future lies ahead!”) while Jeeves curtly dismisses Spode trying to tag him as one of the working masses. It’s in Spode’s ability to crush skulls that we’re interested, though, and it looks as if his powers have deserted him at the start.

Jeeves has given Gussie a pep-talk in how to get over his terror of Spode (“We don’t fear those we despise… fill one’s mind with scorn…