Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Criminal Movie Poster Image
Brutally violent sci-fi thriller doesn't make much sense.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 113 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Revenge/payback are strong themes. Also, terrorists must be destroyed, and crazy science experiments sometimes work.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The criminal character begins the movie as a sociopath with no concept of right or wrong, but with the help of his "new brain," he learns about kindness, love, empathy, etc. But he doesn't take to the new emotions and thoughts easily, and there are no real consequences for his earlier violent actions.


Tons of graphic violence throughout. Some of the intent is to demonstrate that the criminal character has no emotions (regret, remorse, guilt, etc.), but it's no less cringe-inducing. Guns and shooting, blood spatters. Murder with a metal hook to the neck. Oral electric cattle-prod torture. Punching, bashing, beatings (some via objevcts like axes, lamp bases, and even a cooler). Car crashes with projectiles. Explosions. Missile strikes a plane. Gory crime-scene photos. Gory brain surgery, with bleeding. Gory leg wound, with stitching, dressing, etc. Tranquilizer darts. Yelling. A woman is duct-taped to bed. Small girl kidnapped.


A man strokes a woman's clothed backside with his finger. Brief flashbacks of a married couple touching each other in an intimate way.


Several uses of "f--k," plus "motherf----r," "s--t," a--hole," "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional smoking.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEstera T. August 1, 2020

Interesting and emotional thriller

I didn't expect a movie like this to have a happy ending, but it did! I found this film engaging from start to finish. The characters are interesting, the... Continue reading
Parent Written byjohnag July 27, 2016

The Best

Great job.
Teen, 17 years old Written bysmartiusmalone August 12, 2016

Stupid really violent

Criminal has a man beating up a black character to steal a van (Ford Transit)
not for my age
Kid, 9 years old July 16, 2016

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action and thrills

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