Movie Reviews

Legal Requirement (Criminal Review)

CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) dies while traveling to a secret location to meet a hacker named Jan Stroop (Michael Pitt) who can launch missiles at will. Desperate to find his whereabouts, officials turn to an experimental neurosurgeon named Dr. Franks (Tommy Lee Jones) who can transfer memories from one brain to another. The guinea pig for the procedure is Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a violent and dangerous death-row inmate. Now gifted with Pope’s skills and knowledge, Stewart must race against time to stop a sinister international conspiracy.

Yes, I know this film came out last weekend but I haven’t had the time to see it until now. As you may or may not know, I’m a completionist. Also I’ve been tracking my own progress in watching every wide-release film (at least in Ottawa) from 2015. I ended up watching 100 but that just isn’t enough. In order to make it easier for myself this year, I’ve been trying harder to see every film this year and so far I have seen every wide-release film this year (at least in Ottawa) and 55 films total. But enough about me and onto the review!

When you hear about any film with a cast including Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Ryan Reynolds, it has the makings of a promising film. But in most cases, the cast isn’t always enough as the story/script has to match up to that cast’s talents. The trailer looked exciting enough, featuring a lot of different things going on, and some action. Kind of reminded me of another similar film called Self/less, also starring Reynolds.

The story here is of a dangerous death-row inmate named Jericho Stewart (Costner) who becomes the guinea pig of an experimental neurosurgeon named Dr. Franks (Jones) who is trying to transfer memories from one brain to another. The memories in which Stewart receives is from a CIA agent named Bill Pope (Reynolds). While on route to a secret location to meet a hacker named Jan Stroop (Pitt), Pope dies. Desperate to find Stroop’s whereabouts, CIA London supervisor Quaker Wells (Oldman) turns to Franks for the procedure.

I’ll just stop this right now by questioning the plot. Why do they even have to do this in the first place? How do they not know where the hacker is? Wouldn’t Pope have told them at some point? There, I said it. This, however, will not be the last time that you will find yourself questioning certain aspects of the film as this falls under the mindless category. Some probably won’t and just accept what they’re seeing, I’ll admit that I’ve done that occasionally in the past but I just couldn’t do it here.

A film usually doesn’t start well when Ryan Reynolds’ character dies pretty early on (not a spoiler since it’s in the trailer). You didn’t really know what was going on early on either (you did later) but at least I found his character to be a little interesting. This bring me to Stewart who gets the bulk of screen time. He’s a violent, death-row inmate who has Pope’s memories implanted in his brain. With these memories, he gets more than he bargained for in Pope’s behavior and personality and thus becomes a CIA agent type. There was some inner conflict between the parts of him that were Pope and those that were Stewart. This got resolved a little too quickly for me, almost being abandoned for the sake of shifting into action mode, similar to Self/less.

The film did have a decent amount of action but along with the plot, was a little mindless. By that I mean either events go too far or defy belief, I know it’s a film but it has to have at least some believability. Judging by how the film was going at that point, it didn’t really surprise me. Action also comes from the fact that they make Stewart into a big, evil, and menacing presence and he would get into altercations with others. These were just so we wouldn’t forget the kind of person he was.

I just found that all of this characterization didn’t work for me as I just didn’t believe him to be the person that they were making him out to be. This is mostly due to Costner’s performance. I found it to be so over the top, I couldn’t see the bottom. This and the fact I found a lot of the dialogue was so cheesy, I never really got into the film. They also tried to redeem Stewart by trying to make him a better person at the end by using Pope but I just didn’t care because I never found his character very likeable.The rest of the acting was okay, I felt bad for Tommy Lee Jones who just looked sad to me. None of this really mattered as I was never invested in the story.

Overall, this film never really got its footing with me, featuring a mindless story and an over-the-top (in a bad way) performance from Costner. Just watch Self/less.

Score: 5/10

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