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Warner Home Video presents
Criminal (2004)

"There's one thing I have learned. People fall through the cracks in life. Why does this happen? Because they don't know what they want. I don't have that problem."
- Richard (John C. Reilly)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: April 11, 2005

Stars: John C. Reilly, Diego Luena, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Other Stars: Peter Mullen
Director: Gregory Jacobs

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for language
Run Time: 01h:26m:12s
Release Date: April 12, 2005
UPC: 085393896829
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A BA-B D-

DVD Review

With all of the ridiculous laws that are passed every day in this country, would it be so hard to put forth a bill barring remakes in the film industry? No one reinterprets novels, only occasionally songs are redone, and yet movies are being remade at a record clip these days. The most recent to arrive on home video, and perhaps the biggest offender under the proposed "no remakes" bill, is Gregory Jacobs' Criminal, a remake of an Argentinian film from, well, 2000.

The film in question is Nine Queens, one that stands as the most pleasant surprise I have encountered in my years of writing for this website. The problem is that Nine Queens worked well because it was guarded in giving up its secrets, and by the time the final act came around, the pieces of a marvelously constructed puzzle fell into place. With Criminal, the pieces are there but there impact is lessened by more than half. Simply, if Nine Queens were a strategic chess match, Criminal would look more like Chutes and Ladders in comparison.

When it starts, we are introduced to Richard (Reilly) and Rodrigo (Luena), who themselves have just met after Richard decides to take Rodrigo under his wing and recruit him as his partner. After some routine (and sort of clever) small cons, an opportunity for the brass ring comes a long in the form of rare bank note that is said to be the most valuable piece of currency in North America. From there the story evolves to include a wild assortment of characters including Valerie (Gyllenhaal), Robert's sister, the hospitality manager of the hotel where Richard and Rodrigo's target is staying.

Somehow, aside from the near mirror image script and the complete lack of surprise as each puzzle piece falls into place, I found myself caught up in Criminal. Eventually, I began to appreciate it simply as a film that boasts interesting and well developed characters as well as enough energy and style to light up a small city. The director is Gregory Jacobs, an assistant director to Steven Soderberg on each of his films since 1998, and it is clear from the outset that Jacobs has been influenced by his boss and that may well be the best thing Criminal has going for it.

There should be praise for Jacobs and Soderberg (adapting the original script under the name Sam Lowry) for not dumbing down the story to be more accessible to American audiences. There are a few small changes that propel the plot, most notably in the Rodrigo character, but they wind up causing confusion once the film is over because they lead to thoughts about lapses in logic and second guesses and they ultimately diminish the overall impact of the picture.

The cast is uniformly terrific with Reilly pulling off his first leading man role with aplomb. He has the sort of sad sack look that Richard needs and he makes us feel for his character, which is saying a lot. The two best performances, for myself at least, come from Luena and Gyllenhaal (the future Mrs. Clemons if I am dreaming) as each injects a shot of charisma and charm into the film that is welcome.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has terrific sharpness and detail. Colors are well rendered with no bleeding evident and appear natural. There are a few instances of edge enhancement, but this occurs in isolated spots so it is not a large concern.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is largely anchored in the center channel with smooth and crisp dialogue with no dropouts or distortion. The jazzy score comes off well in the surround speakers, making for a very nice experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: The films theatrical trailer is offered, and that, sadly, is it.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Overall, I am on the fence about Criminal. On the one hand, it is a very well made film boasting great direction, performances, and most of all a sense of energy that is intoxicating. But save yourself the time and rent the original film, Nine Queens. It is really just apples and oranges.

 


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