Warner Home Video
Date: April 12, 2005
Review posted: April 11, 2005
Experienced con man Richard (John C. Reilly) takes young Rodrigo
(Diego Luna) under his wing in
while he negotiates the sale of a rare bill. Richard’s hostile
sister Valerie (Maggie Gyllenhaal) also gets involved, to
Rodrigo’s delight. Who’s really conning who, though?
Is it just me or have a lot of caper films appeared lately? Well,
the trademarks of the genre have certainly become clearer and clearer
to me. The biggest is the surprise ending. You know if you’ve seen
enough of them that heist films always end up with the reveal of who’s
really conning who. Sometimes the mentor-student relationship enters
into the plot. There can also possibly be a romance. All of this is
included in this film. Criminal follows all the formulas of a caper
film but is kept at above average quality by solid performances and
Based on the Spanish film Nine Queens, Criminal
begins with a script that provides well written characters with
believable situations. The way Richard and Valerie fight and the
backstory slowly revealed concerning them is the real human drama at
the core of this heightened criminal world. The immediate reaction of
Rodrigo to Valerie is also something that feels real (women will like
it of course!) and it ties to the resolution of the plot nicely. You
may expect it but the story is still satisfying. The scene where
Valerie makes Richard confess to their brother Michael why they are
fighting is one of the most poignant I have ever seen in a film of
Humor comes through in some of the scenes that really works with
this story. Everyone wants a percentage of the score, there are
robberies and attempted robberies of the loot, and the irony of the
brief “con” scenes Richard does for Rodrigo can make you laugh.
Director Jacobs is faced with several scenes he must stage the same
way: Richard and Rodrigo talking while walking or riding in a car. He
makes these less static by mixing up the camera angles, but it is
still a bit noticeable. I like the costuming here and the choice of
locations. My favorite production value though is the music, which is
kind of jazzy and upbeat.
An excellent cast is this film’s best asset. Reilly is perfectly
cast and he is one of most reliable non-famous actors working today.
It is interesting that his is the lead character and he’s not very
likeable at the same time. Luna has a heated charm that I hope is
around for a long time and his short screen time with Gyllenhaal
creates adequate chemistry. I couldn’t help wondering what another
actress might do with some of the time Gyllenhaal get here, though.
days are transferred well from big to small screen in this anamorphic
Dolby Digital is a good format for the peppy score here. English,
French, and Spanish subtitles are offered as well.
This is a really good one, with good voice-over, use of clips, and use
of the title. There is even a scene used here that I wish had made it
into the film but ultimately didn’t! There are two other trailers here
but no other special features.
The caper film can by now seemingly offer no new innovations but
Criminal is an entry into the genre that provides the expected
elements with some performances and direction that make it more than
worth the price of a rental. More extras would only have boosted the
overall experience but the film is good viewing in itself.
Home | Back to Top