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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Criminal: A serious felony

CAN the memory from one human brain be transferred to another? In "Criminal," we are made to believe it can.

It's quite a stretch, I know, but back in 1997we thought facial transplantationas depicted in "Face/Off" was far-fetched. In fact, the procedure was first tried out just eight years later, and since then at least 25 people are wearing somebody else's face.

The storyline of the spy thriller "Criminal" is firmly anchored on brain-to-brain memory transfer and its unintended consequences. Through the controversial method, the thoughts of CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) are implanted into Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a convicted psychopathic. Pope, you see, was in negotiations with The Dutchman, a hacker who had developed a program known as a wormhole that could penetrate even the most secure computer system, including the military's, and take over it.

The Dutchman wanted $10 million and a new identity in exchange for his program, and Pope was delivering the package to him. Unfortunately the agent was waylaid by the henchmen of Hagbardaka Heimbahl, an anarchist obsessed with world annihilation who sees the program as the ultimate weapon.

Pope is tortured and killed (an early exit for the star of my favorite Marvel super guy "Deadpool") and now the CIA must track down The Dutchman before Heimbahl gets to him. To do that the agency flies in the neurosurgeon Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) to extract the neural database of Pope and transfer it to Jericho Stewart for decoding. As Dr. Franks explains it, Jericho is the perfect recipient because a defective frontal lobe has left him incapable of feeling any emotion.

The procedure doesn't seem to work, and the CIA decides to get rid of Jericho. He escapes, but he begins to experience strange memory flashes. He has fractured reminiscences of Pope's wife, Jill (played by Gal Gadot, who is Wonder Woman in "Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice") and their young daughter. He also discovers he can speak French, one of the languages the CIA agent was fluent in. He breaks into the Pope residence and resists his natural impulse to kill them both. Jill soon realizes that a part of her husband lives inside Jericho and a bond develops between the psycho killer and the CIA agent's family.

Guided by Pope's memories, Jericho beats the CIA and Heimbahl to The Dutchman, who hands him the flash drive containing the program.

There's one problem: Heimbahl has seized Jill and her daughter and demands that Jericho turn over the program to him. The CIA warns him that handing over the program to the anarchist would lead to the death of millions, and that the lives of Jill and her daughter is a small sacrifice to pay.

Jericho, confused and desperate, must choose.

"Criminal" has plenty of shootouts and car chases, but don't expect them to rival those of "Skyfall" or "Fast and Furious 7."

Don't expect sterling performances from the cast, either. Costner lacked the fire in projecting a dangerous psychopath bedevilled by someone else's thoughts running inside his mind. Reynolds doesn't make a significant enough imprint, given his abbreviated appearance.

Jones is the biggest disappointment of all. Other than provide explanations about how memory transfer works and how it is affecting Jericho, his Dr. Franks is featureless and a casting mistake.

Perhaps the one bright thing going for "Criminal" is Gal Godot, who sheds her Wonder Woman image and leather bustier and fits in nicely as Jill Pope. But then again I'm unabashedly biased.

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