Criminal is a remake of the Argentinean film Nine Queens, which, in essence, is a remake of every caper film ever made. Both deal with one big job that can solve the problems of everybody involved, and a surprising amount of backstabbing by anybody and everybody. The remake is not as good as the original, but does do a good job of translating and transporting it to America. It slides by on the fact that watching movies like this is always fun, and John C. Reilly does a slick job as the lead. Having seen the original does not spoil the ending to this one. Although events play out pretty much exactly the same way, it's hard to say that the ending to Nine Queens was original because every film like this tends to end the same way.

It all starts when Richard Gattis (Reilly, Anger Management, The Hours) spots Rodrigo (Diego Luna, Nicotina, The Terminal) trying to pull a scam in a casino. He pretends to be a cop, and instead asks Rodrigo if he wants to be partners. Gattis' partner disappeared, and he needs somebody new. He calls Rodrigo "Brian," to "anglo him up" a bit, and they're off, pulling scams on unsuspecting people to see if they fit well together. Then, Gattis receives a call from his sister Valerie (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mona Lisa Smile, Casa de los Babys) who tells him that one of his former partners nearly died in her hotel and his asking for him.

Richard and Valerie clearly do not get along, and she abhors his chosen profession. Gattis soon discovers that his old partner Ochoa (Zitto Kazann, Thirteen Days, Price of Glory) is trying to pull a huge scam on Wiliam Hannigan (Peter Mullan, Young Adam, The Magdalene Sisters). Ochoa forged an extremely valuable piece of antique US currency that Hannigan wants. Hannigan will only be in the country for one more day, so he has no time to completely authenticate the bill. Ochoa needs Gattis' help, and of course Gattis complies.

Adapter/director Gregory Jacobs (who has a lot of experience as an assistant director for Steven Soderbergh) and co-adapter Sam Lowry (aka Soderbergh, Solaris, Nightwatch) keep the best element of Nine Queens, which is the constant element of surprise. There are no 'good guys' in Criminal; everybody wants a piece of the pie and everybody demands some sort of payment for his/her services. As the plan gets more complex, Gattis is forced to include more people, and each person wants a cut of the profits. Gattis is a master of control, and Reilly plays him coolly. It's always hard to determine what is going on in his mind, because he's always trying to pull something. As the actual scam comes closer to fruition, too many elements enter the fray and Gattis loses his precious control over everything. A good scam is all about speed. The scammer needs to move quickly so that their victim does not realize what happened until it is too late. The same goes with Criminal. Jacobs keeps the pace frantic, layering scam after scam in a relatively short period of time. All the viewer needs to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 27 minutes, Rated R for language.

Back to Movies