A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Criminal is a sci-fi-ish thriller in which a CIA agent's brain is transferred into the body of a sociopath (star Kevin Costner). There's tons of graphic, cringe-inducing violence and gore, including grisly bloody murders, guns and shooting, brutal fights/beatings, kidnapping, explosions, brain surgery, bloody wounds, and more. Language is also very strong, with several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." There's one brief sexual situation, when main character touches a woman's clothed backside; flashbacks also show a married couple touching each other in an intimate way. Characters briefly smoke cigarettes. Those drawn by the presence of Ryan Reynolds should know he's not in very much of the movie.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In London, CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) is killed on the job before he can finish an important task. A computer hacker called the Dutchman (Michael Pitt), who has access to the entire arsenal of the United States military, has escaped from an anarchist (Jordi Molla), and only Bill knew where he was. So Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) uses a special technique to transfer Bill's memories into the brain of sociopathic prisoner Jericho (Kevin Costner). Jericho escapes and begins experiencing Bill's memories, even visiting Bill's widow (Gal Gadot). Jericho decides to try to find the Dutchman and a bag of money, but the anarchist's henchmen -- as well as the CIA -- are hot on his trail.
Is it any good?
Trying to explain what happens in CRIMINAL is bad enough -- you run up against all the things that make no sense -- but then there's the clumsy, jumbled, thoughtless way it's all put together. Stories of characters receiving body parts or organs from mysterious donors have been done, but they're usually told as second-tier chillers with a measure of fun. Criminal is told seriously, without ever really considering the emotional ramifications of what would happen if you really had someone else's thoughts and feelings inside your head.
Poor Gadot, playing Bill's widow, Jill Pope, is asked to try to explore this proposition, and her weird acceptance of Jericho feels totally false. But she's not the only one who suffers in this movie. Gary Oldman's character, the chief of the London branch of the CIA, is constantly doing incredibly stupid things, and Alice Eve has very little character at all to play. Director Ariel Vromen, who did a decent job with The Iceman, seems totally at a loss with this one. It tells a muddled story in a way that doesn't work, and despite a terrific cast, it probably won't be of much interest to very many teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the types of violence depicted in Criminal. Do they affect you differently? Is a straight-to-the-face punch more disturbing than a car explosion? Why or why not? What's the impact of media violence on kids? Does that impact change as kids get older?
Do you think the graphic violence was necessary to illustrate Jericho's lack of emotion? How else could this side of his character have been portrayed?
What would you consider the pros and cons of technology that would allow thoughts and feelings to be transferred from one brain to another? If someone you loved "returned" to you in another body, how do you think you might react?
Why do you think the anarchist in the movie wants to destroy governments, corporations, banks, etc.? What good would it do? What would take their place?
- In theaters: April 15, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: July 26, 2016
- Cast: Gal Gadot, Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman
- Director: Ariel Vromen
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence and language throughout
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love action and thrills
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch