By Celeste Meiffren
photo courtesy of warner INDEPENDENT FEATURES
The movie "Criminal," starring John C. Reilly, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Diego Luna, is a remake of the Argentinian film "Nine Queens." It is now playing at the Loft.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Ever get the feeling you're being played?
We've all had that unsettling feeling. It's the feeling you get when the only evidence of a lover is an old sock on the floor and newly changed phone numbers and locks. Or when you suspect your roommate is dating your boyfriend. Or when you think your business associate is going to take all the credit for your work. But in the new film "Criminal," first time director Gregory Jacobs takes "being played" to a whole new level.
Crime capers are omnipresent in contemporary cinema. "Criminal" is a new breed of the genre. The characters are well developed, the crime itself is not overly grandiose, the dialogue is smart and witty, and it has a superb mix of character actors. This is certainly no "Italian Job" or "The Score."
"Criminal" is based on the Argentine movie "Nine Queens," which was made only four years ago. It follows a small-time crook, Richard (John C. Reilly), looking for a new partner to do scores with. He finds an even smaller-time crook, Rodrigo (Diego Luna), pulling small jobs at a casino. Richard takes him on as an understudy of sorts, and they get mixed up in the selling of a rare, and forged, American currency.
Intermingled with the main plot is a subplot involving Richard's sister, Valerie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and their battle over their mother's estate.
Richard and Rodrigo have the sort of chemistry that a miserly old man has with his new puppy. In a matter of minutes, Richard attempts to anglicize Rodrigo by renaming him Brian. Clearly, Richard is in full control of the relationship. Or is he?
This movie is set up in such a way that you become suspicious of all of the characters. As a member of the audience, you will become the world's biggest cynic, scrambling to try to figure out the ending. Just when you think you have it, it goes a different direction. Then just when you think you've gotten a hold on it again, it turns the other way.
I hate to use the words "surprise ending." But I just did. It seems that's what everyone is looking for these days. Without a good twist, people don't know what to do. With that said, the ending to this movie is good. So good and twistastic, in fact, that it could be a mainstream movie. A good mainstream movie, that is.
I like movies that aren't obvious. "Criminal" does not have obvious humor, an obvious plot, or obvious character motivations. The charm behind the movie is its assumption that the audience is not stupid. I like knowing that the director thinks I can think – because I can.
"Criminal" might prove to be the most entertaining and witty crime movie to come out in the last five years. It's playing exclusively at the Loft Cinema. Catch it before it gets away.