Saturday, July 02, 2005

Criminal (2004)

A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

Hollywood remake of non-Hollywood film is always a tricky business. When American filmmakers stray from the original, they risk being accused of butchery. When they stick to original, they are bound to make the weaknesses of original more apparent than its strength. CRIMINAL, 2004 thriller written and directed by Gregory Jacobs and based on 2000 Argentine film NUEVE REINAS (NINE QUEENS) belongs to the latter category.

Like all recent American remakes, CRIMINAL has the original plot brought in contemporary USA. It starts with Richard Gaddis (played by John C. Reilly), seasoned con artist who notices young Mexican Rodrigo (played by Diego Luna) trying to pull a simple scam in a casino. When the youth gets in trouble, Gaddis intervenes and decides to tutor him in the art of scams and possibly make him a partner. Soon opportunity for a big score arrives in the form William Hannigan (played by Peter Mullan), media tycoon interested in rare banknotes. He took a room in a hotel where Richard's estranged sister Valerie (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) works as a concierge. Richard and Rodrigo team up with one of Richard's old partners in order to sell him forged banknote.

CRIMINAL is a work of Gregory Jacobs, long-time collaborator of Steven Soderbergh, who co-wrote the script. The film is competently directed and acted, mostly thanks to the efforts of experienced character actors like Reilly, Gyllenhaal and Mullan. Compared with them Diego Luna is bland, but nevertheless effective, although at times it appears that he was cast more because of his appeal to Latino audiences in USA then acting ability.

However, all this is of little importance when it becomes apparent that Jacobs and Soderbergh didn't bother to change Fabien Bielinsky's original script in any significant way. Complex plot that was fascinating four years earlier looks banal and melodramatic, especially at the end which isn't any surprise at all. Those viewers who watched NUEVE REINAS beforehand will be affected with increasingly unpleasant feeling of deja vu. Even more annoying is the lack of proper social, economic and political context for the plot. NUEVE REINAS stood out among Argentine films for the prophetic dimension of its final scenes. This and other elements are missing from CRIMINAL and turn it into another Hollywood example of pointlessness.

RATING: 4/10 (+)


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