RATING |

As a service to ticket-buyers who find themselves in the dark (and empty?) theater watching the egregiously silly, generic espionage thriller Criminal, the filmmakers have taken the trouble to ID just about every character, their names and occupation typed in dossier-style font on the lower corner of the screen.

And so we know that Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA intelligence agent even before he starts doing spylike things such as ducking into the London Underground with a worried look on his face. And that Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner) is a prisoner in solitary confinement in a high-security West Virginia penitentiary. The warden explains that Jerico has "no impulse control, no empathy. . . . He feels nothing, no hatred, no love."

Just the sort of guy that a brilliant neurosurgeon, Franks (Tommy Lee Jones), plans to use a few years down the line when the human trials for his radical memory-transference program begin. These days, the good doctor is experimenting with rats.

But when Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman), CIA's London station chief, needs to know what Pope knew before he ran into a murderous band of radical anarchists headed by the murderously anarchist Xavier Heimdahl (Jordi Molla), Franks is informed with no little urgency that his memory procedure is "going live."

Hence, Jerico, a sociopath if ever there was one, gets helicoptered to Dover Air Force Base and jetted to London to be laid side-by-side in a lab with the body of Pope, the latter's skull opened like a can, the better to zap his frontal lobe with electrodes.

Post-op, Jerico wakes with a surgical wound on the back of his neck, with pounding headaches, and with flashes of a life lived - a suitcase filled with money hidden in a library, a beautiful daughter (Lara Decaro), a beautiful wife (Gal Gadot) - and, more puzzling still, with the glimmers of a conscience. Car chases and gunplay ensue.

Hasn't Reynolds already made this movie, like last year? Well, only to the extent that in Self/less, the actor who had yet to resuscitate his career with Deadpool played a strapping guy who, thanks to a pricey and non-FDA-approved biogenics operation, receives the memories and consciousness of a dying real estate mogul (Ben Kingsley). Car chases and gunplay ensue.

Criminal, with its criminally lazy title, is mostly Costner's to growl and scowl his way through, as the psycho convict literally discovers a new life, and Indian takeout, and has warm feelings for, and shared memories with, the much younger and confused Jill Pope. Gadot, of course, is Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, appearing far more comfortable in the company of the fellas in funny costumes, and far surer of herself.

In Criminal, she gets the chance to wield a weapon at the strange intruder and then shed a few tears when he starts telling her about stuff that only her spouse would've, or could've, known. That's another crime: that Gadot has so little to do as Jerico chases around town, and is chased by the Americans, Russians, by MI6, by Xavier's squad of anarchists - all of whom are looking for "the Dutchman."

Agent Pope knew who and where this Dutchman was, and now it's up to Jerico to find him before the whole world is blown to smithereens. Which might not be that bad an idea if the future holds the promise of more movies as knuckleheaded as this one.

srea@phillynews.com
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Criminal
Directed by Ariel Vromen. With Kevin Costner, Gal Gadot, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, and Ryan Reynolds. Distributed by Summit Entertainment.
Running time: 1 hour, 53 mins.
Parent's guide: R (violence, profanity, adult themes).
Playing at: Area theaters.