Jericho Stewart is about the last person you'd want saving the world. If you were the head of some global HR department head-hunting for the post of "Hero," his name would fall below all humans, most dogs, some cats and the occasional patch of quicksand.
Jericho has all the empathy of a tape dispenser. In fact, he can't feel emotion at all. He'll steal your bagel, trash your car and yank out your spleen without feeling even an eensie-weensie twinge of guilt. Cross Dexter with the Joker and throw in that bear from The Revenant, and you've got Jericho's personality.
So how, exactly, did the fate of civilization itself fall into the hands of this grim guy? Turns out, the very thing that makes him a jerk also makes him the perfect man for a freakishly specific job.
See, Jericho's brain got scrambled as a child, and part of his gray matter was jolted free of—well, everything. That blank slate makes him the perfect candidate for what amounts to a brain transplant. And when an FBI agent dies on the job, the government sees a fantastic opportunity to plug the agent's memories and skills into, you know, a homicidal psychopath.
OK, so the situation's not ideal. And if it wasn't an emergency, this cutting-edge procedure might've undergone some testing first. But here's the thing: The agent, Bill Pope, was on a super-critical mission to protect the United States' military complex. For some reason, the Pentagon thought it wise to tie all of its defense systems into a nice, little online bundle, apparently securing it with the password "12345." Some guy known as the Dutchman hacked into the system and demanded $10 million to seal the thing back up.
Thankfully, America just happened to have $10 million lying around, so the bureaucrats gave the cash to Bill and ordered him to go pay the man already (because even though the U.S. never makes deals with terrorists, it has a soft spot for hackers). Alas, a handful of said terrorists—Spanish anarchists—found Bill before Bill could find the Dutchman, rendering the agent (mostly) dead and causing the FBI to wonder why they didn't just do direct deposit like normal people.
But what's done is done. The important thing now is to yank Bill's precious last-minute memories out of his quickly fading brain, stuff them into Jericho's noggin and use the career criminal to track down the money, give it to the missing Dutchman … and save the world as we know it.
Yes, it sounds outlandish, I know. But, hey, have you been watching the news lately? This thing that's being done is at least as sensible as the goings-on of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Plugged In, even in its most quarrelsome moments, would still be in favor of folks trying to save the world. But in the context of Criminal, that praise must come with an outsized asterisk. Who, exactly, is doing the saving here?
Not Jericho, really. If left on his own, he'd just swipe the money for himself and kill anyone who tried to get in his way. It's hard to praise Bill, either, given that he's dead. But together, somehow, this Jericho-Bill hybrid (Jerbill?) becomes increasingly concerned with other folks, especially Bill's wife, Jill, and his daughter, Emma. Under Bill's undead influence, Jericho draws closer to Bill's grieving widow and girl, experiencing love and compassion for perhaps the first time in his life. Jill and Emma become the catalysts for Jericho to—temporarily, at least—see the wider world as a place actually worth saving.
The Spanish anarchists, led by a guy named Hagbardaka Heimbahl, operates out of an old church. (We see stained glass windows above him and a cross hanging behind him.) There's a reference to "religious fanatics."
Jericho "remembers" (and we see) some of Bill's intimate moments with Jill—kissing, lounging in bed, making out. Jill wears flimsy, cleavage-baring nightclothes during some of these flashbacks, and elsewhere she favors curve-hugging outfits.
We see two men kissing. Jericho touches a medical worker's backside. And when Bill's memories start invading his mind, the first thing he does is break into the man's home in the middle of the night, go to the bedroom and ogle Jill as she lies in bed in her underwear.
Jericho then tapes Jill's mouth shut and secures her hands to the headboard as an obvious prelude to rape. Bill's memories prevent Jericho from harming Jill any further, but it's still a deeply disturbing scene.
Before we even meet Jericho, an innocent cabbie is shot in the head, blood and brain matter splattering across his car. It's just the first of many bullet-riddled bodies we see, and the movie's frequent kills are always accompanied by gore. At times, people are shot in their extremities—legs or feet—before their assailants perform a core-targeted coup de grace. Some of the deaths that don't involve bullets are even worse: One character smashes another's head with a lamp, bringing the deadly implement down repeatedly until the victim's head is a bloody mess. Somebody's shocked with a cattle prod—a mere prelude to when the terrorist sticks the prod into the man's mouth. (The torture eventually kills him.) Somebody else is killed with a makeshift hook: His killer hooks his neck as if he were a fish, spraying yet more blood.
Jericho proves repeatedly what a terrible person he can be without Bill's postmortem guidance. "You hurt me, I'll hurt you worse" is his motto, and he means it. He thrashes a group of three or four people outside an eatery—beating them and smashing their faces into walls and windows and van doors until they're all senseless and half dead. He punches a man in the face, breaking his nose. He takes a hatchet and smashes it repeatedly into a guy's chest. He drags an innocent civilian into a car (with two people who are already dead), handcuffs the unconscious man so he'll stay put, then sets the car alight.
Jericho is shot with tranquilizers, nearly drowns in a submerged vehicle and tears his leg on broken glass, leaving a gaping wound. (We later see him stitch up the bloody wound himself.) During his brain operation, doctors drill into his head, and he's left with grotesque, bloody stitches on the back of his neck and the side of his scalp. We see Bill with the top of his head cut off and a bit of his brain visible.
Police cars careen into one another and blow up. A plane explodes. We're told that Jericho suffered his brain injuries when his mother told her lover that he wasn't Jericho's father. The man called her a whore and tossed Jericho out a car window.
Crude or Profane Language
About 40 f-words, with one used in conjunction with Jesus' name (which is also abused elsewhere). God's name is misused, once with "d--n." We hear 10 s-words and one c-word. Also: "a--," "b--ch" and "h---". An obscene hand gesture is made.
Drug and Alcohol Content
The Dutchman constantly smokes cigarettes. Jericho also smokes, but mainly he's on the hunt for some serious pain meds that might ease the throbbing in his head. (His doctor gives him a couple of pills and, later, helps him acquire a full bottle.) Jill drinks wine.
Other Negative Elements
Criminal is a fitting name for this movie. Indeed, we could say, "This movie is Criminal" and leave it pretty much at that.
Granted, this flick won't actually bust out of the local multiplex, shoot up the parking lot and rob a liquor store. But it will certainly steal your money and precious time, giving you, in return, buckets of blood and a bevy of profanity. You might say the story is sloppy, in more ways than one. And it surprises me a bit that Criminal roped in so many A-listers (Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones), hot commodities (Deadpool's Ryan Reynolds and Batman v Superman's Gal Gadot) and, well, even Kevin Costner.
But we're no respecter of actors here at Plugged In, so go ahead and cuff this movie, Danno, and take it away.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kevin Costner as Jericho Stewart; Gal Gadot as Jill Pope; Ryan Reynolds as Bill Pope; Lara Decaro as Emma; Jordi Mollà as Hagbardaka Heimbahl; Gary Oldman as Quaker Wells; Tommy Lee Jones as Dr. Franks; Antje Traue as Elsa
Ariel Vromen ( )
April 15, 2016
July 26, 2016