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Movie Review

'Criminal' Is Consistently Interesting

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Criminal starts out with a premise strongly suggestive of a horror movie, progresses with fairly believable developments like a mystery story, and concludes with a sudden outburst of violence like an action thriller. The progression is not particularly illogical, but it is misleading, and it may leave everybody with a feeling of having been served satisfaction at one point or another, but very few being happy with the movie as whole.

The premise of a dead man's memory being transferred to the brain of somebody still alive is so close to such horror classics as the Brain That Wouldn't Die and Frankenstein that it will probably take some time for the viewer to accept that the gradual revelation of clues leading to a solution to the mystery is not going to lead to anything gothic, even if what might be expected to be the mad scientist is played by such an earthy realist as Billy Bob Thornton and the artificially brained monster is a strangely cast Kevin Costner, another actor not much given to bizarre fantasy. And those who enjoy the intellectual tantalization of slow step-by-step revelations may feel cheated by a rash of car chases and gunfights and big orange explosions that seem to belong in a Mad Max movie.

But Criminal is a consistently interesting anthology of movie genres and tropes, and it keeps moving right along without lingering over big scenes or special effects or emotional appeals. Costner is surprisingly effective as a man with two conflicting brains, neither one normal. And all three heroines are pleasingly strong, even if the last one is unconvincingly emotionally vulnerable.