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Criminal (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical trailer.

JOHN C Reilly gets a welcome lead role in this slick crime caper from first-time director, Gregory Jacobs, and grabs it with both hands.

The film in question is a remake of the crafty Argentinian film, Nine Queens, that was released only four years ago, but which caught the imagination of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh, who serve as executive producers.

As such, it comes infused with the same sort of smooth-talking charisma that has become a hallmark of the Soderbergh crime caper, from Ocean's 12 to Out of Sight, with a touch of David Mamet and neo-noir thrown in for good measure.

Reilly stars as Richard Gaddis, a Los Angeles-based con man, who enlists Diego Luna's young grifter, Rodrigo, as a potential new partner after witnessing him trying to pull a partially successful scam in a casino.

Gaddis believes Rodrigo has promise and quickly puts him to work on a couple of low-rent scams, before letting him in on a potentially lucrative scheme to deliver a counterfeit bank note to a wealthy guest (Peter Mullan) at the hotel where his sister, Valerie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is working as concierge.

But given that both Gaddis and Rodrigo are con-men, how much can they be trusted, and who, if anyone, is conning who?

Criminal is a taut, well-written and extremely pacy crime thriller that is set over the course of 24-hours.

Anyone who has seen the original will know the outcome straight away, but those who haven't should be kept on their toes trying to figure things out, while revelling in the high-calibre performances.

Reilly, especially, revels in the opportunity to showboat for a while, coming across as both unscrupulous and sympathetic, yet never completely trustworthy.

His chemistry with the innocent-looking Luna is well-realised and the duo make an entertaining double act, particularly during the early cons.

Yet Gyllenhaal is also good value as Reilly's estranged sister, who eventually has a part to play in the scheme, while Mullan brings some much-needed menace late on, as a shady businessman.

Jacobs, too, deserves credit for exercising some restraint and allowing his actors to take centre-stage.

This is, at the end of the day, a performance-driven piece that gets by as much on the charm of its players as it does on the ingenuity of the set-up.

Given that there's only so many con-stories, it's a tribute to all concerned that the actors are allowed to pull it off.

Hence, while the plot itself is probably open to criticism due to some of its later contrivances, there's no denying the quality of the performances - which provide one of the main reasons for seeing it.

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