Movie Review: Criminal-ly good

By Emily Baum

We’re not talking about the best action of you life, or your friends’ sister, we’re talking about Warner Independent Pictures new film Criminal. Now that you’re paying attention, let’s talk about the movie. A remake of the Spanish movie Nine Queens, Criminal in boasts a critically acclaimed cast with the likes of John C. Reilly (Chicago), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Mona Lisa Smile), and Diego Luna (Y Mama Tu Tambien).

Criminal, set in LA over a 24 hour period, follows the day in the life of two con men, the big timer Richard Gaddis (Reilly) and the upstart Rodrigo (Luna) in what could be the biggest score of their criminal career.

Like most con films, Criminal starts off in the quintessential casino, Rodrigo attempting to pull the “change-for-a-hundred” scam on a waitress. Richard, by chance spots, the rookie con man before security, and it just so happens he’s looking for a new partner in crime. The two soon team up and set off to pull a series of escalating cons when a once in a lifetime opportunity falls into their laps. Unfortunately, this opportunity just happens to take place at the Biltmore Hotel where Richard’s sister (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who hates him for swindling her and their younger brother out of the family inheritance, is the concierge. The big opportunity involves hustling a VIP collector of antique currency. A perfect forgery of a rare dollar has been made, and it’s Richard and Rodrigo’s job to pass it off as the real deal, make a huge score and split. As the deceptions and duplicities pile up, Richard and Rodrigo must negotiate a succession of swindlers and thieves to get the money, keep the money, and keep their freedom.

It should be no surprise how talented John C. Reilly is after his turn as the jilted husband in Chicago, yet his performance in Criminal is magnetic. Diego Luna deserves mention as well for his turn as Rodrigo. Played to perfection, Luna is able to make Rodrigo smart, guileless and unconsciously sexy all at the same time. Stir in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s pitch perfect performance and you’ve got palpable chemistry.

A stylishly modern caper adventure peppered with humor, intrigue and absorbing performances, Criminal will rob you of your $10.50 with a wink and a thank you. Filled with quirky yet deep characters, edgy humor, witty sarcasm and unsuspected plot twists, it’s a film embodying all the best things associated with independent pictures. It’s smart, engaging, maintains a complex balance of edgy performances while marching to the beat of a different drum. For those who have seen Nine Queens don’t expect anything new. For everyone else, this movie is original, funny and there is no good reason not to go see it.