Criminal (2004) Poster

(2004)

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8/10
Con men
jotix10018 September 2004
One question that always pop in my mind whenever Hollywood tries to remake a foreign film that was successful is: Why? In most cases, the end result is disastrous; it never compares with the original movie and why spend money in something that has already been done, better.

The movie in question here is the Argentine surprise film of last year, "9 Queens". In it, Fabian Belinsky, its director, was able to give us an original story, a caper, that was well executed and brilliantly acted; it was a pleasure to watch.

Not to put this movie down, but it suffers in comparison. Gregory Jacobs, the director, has adapted the story to present day Los Angeles and the story hasn't changed at all. The memory of the other movie was still vivid in our minds, so there was no surprise with this one.

The acting is good in general. John C. Reilly makes the con man Richard Gaddis perfectly slimy. Diego Luna brings a nice balance to his role, and Maggie Gillenhaal is excellent as the long suffering sister.

If you haven't seen the original, this version works fine.
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An OK Americanization Into a Contemporary "The Sting"
noralee21 September 2004
"Criminal" is an adequate Americanization of one of my favorite films of 2002, the delightfully twisty "Nine Queens (Nueve Reinas)."

Adapter/debut director Gregory Jacobs doesn't quite make up for the extra tension that Argentina's financial chaos added as an urgent back drop.

Some of the twists are too smoothly straightened out by focusing more on the older con man, here played by John C. Reilly, and his sister, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal without the original's sensuality, despite her low cut blouse.

Diego Luna is a mite young, but he's cast to turn Reilly's character into more of a manipulative mentor and less an apparent partner.

On its own, without comparison to the original, it's an amusing and workmanlike update of "The Sting" crossed with "The Grifters."
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A Gem: John C. Reilly, Diego Luna and Maggie Gyllenhaal were never better together.
WCS0218 September 2004
Lovers of the grifter genre - you will love this one most of all. It earns a 9 out of 10 from yours truly. Sincerely. Sure, I'm biased for the genre.

But this one has the style of a low budget 'Sting' with a story line on par with Steve Martin's 'The Spanish Prisoner'.

Grifter movies rely on competent, likable con men and women, gullible marks and a logical plot. The audience can be(come) the mark, as can the cons themselves. That's why this genre yanks me in … and why it entertains so well. I am (you are) the detective. Figure out what's going on before they tell you: That's the ame. I'm a cynic by nature and I'm always equal to the task.

Now this one - I couldn't figure it all out before they revealed it. What they reveal is worth the wait and meandering through the story. I doubt you'll piece it all together either. Therein lies how it earned its 9.

The plot works. Oh . . . and "Cut to the chase' will never be the same after you see how "Criminal" cuts to it. It's brilliant and timed with perfection. It's something you'd expect from the likes of Spike Lee.

Sorry to be oblique here; but if I tell you any more, the ending would be exposed. The last two minutes tell all - and the first 85 are every bit as entertaining and important. John C. Reilly, Diego Luna and Maggie Gyllenhaal are worth the admission price. Superb, all! See it. Tonight!
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7/10
"What's with the raped-virgin look?"
mik-193 May 2005
Con-man Richard (John C. Reilly) enlists Mexican petty thief Rodrigo (Diego Luna) as his new temporary partner, and soon they are engaged in a huge scam involving counterfeit money, being helped along by Richard's skeptical sister Valerie (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

In 'Criminal' you soon learn not to believe ANYTHING you see! It is an object lesson in distrust, but an engaging and wonderfully entertaining one. Who is going to f... whom over, that's what it is all about. Richard conned his two younger siblings out of their share of the inheritance after their mother, but he whines and bitches at every turn, and he proves himself to be both antisemitic and anti-black. When once again he has tried to cheat his new partner out of his cut, he exclaims, "What's with the raped-virgin look?". Richard is a terrible, terrible person, a thoroughly rotten apple who believes that "F...ing, that's when you're handcuffed on the pavement". Anything short of that he can deal with, squirming like a worm. Of his victims he says, "I don't feel anything for them. They're marks. Some of them are dumber than f ... pets!". John C. Reilly is very good in the part, although I found myself longing for just one other color on the palette, just some surprise, something not too predictable.

He says to Rodrigo, "You got something that money and practice can't buy, you look like a nice guy", and Diego Luna (the 'other' guy from 'And You Mother Too', alongside Gabriel García Bernal) has a puppy-dog appeal that works like a charm. He has genuine, unforced charm and is cuddly at all times.

Obviously, if you have watched 'The Sting' or films like the great French caper 'Les ripoux' ('My New Partner', 1984), 'Criminal' will offer you nothing new or sensational. It does have a really nice feel to it, though, taking its leisurely time to get rolling, enabling us to get to know these people. Or so we think ...

7/10
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9/10
Indelible -- a movie I shall never forget, and pleased not to
starring-123 August 2004
I just went recently to the Austin Premiere of this flick (which is actually the second showing -- I guess the first premiere must have been in LA).

I expected to see an "okay" film, but what I got to see was really something special! I don't know if I ever saw John G. Reilly as a lead character before (if you don't know his name, you will recognize him from many movies you have seen), and he was awesome! One of those guys who is so ugly that he is adorable. (How many guys can pull that one off?!) But what makes him adorable is not his looks; rather, his acting and flawless timing. This movie had me cracking up so many times from when Reilly delivered his lines straight-faced, playing Richard Gaddis, the "I-don't-give-a-rat's-ass-about-anybody-but-myself swindler" whose only redeeming virtue was his choice to do all his dirty dealings without any violence involved 99% of the time. I swear it made me embarrassed sometimes how loudly I found myself laughing in public when he delivered some of those priceless lines. I wish I could remember a funny one verbatim, but can't, so won't spoil it my misquoting. One funny line that didn't make me laugh out loud but I still remember as a great line was when asked by Diego Luna's character Rodrigo, "What's your sister like?" he responds with, "What's my sister like? She likes to give me s**t."

What is Gaddis' sister like? Indeed. What a cool lady! So sexy, fascinating and unique. She has a walk that, as a woman myself, I'd give a million dollars to learn to imitate. I have to say she beat Mae West or any other screen star. I had not seen Maggie Gyllenhaal (Valeria Gaddis) in films before (sorry, I missed a lot of films in the past some years) but hear she has been around for a while. Now this is one sensual and mysterious mature woman who plays Gaddis' smart-as-a-whip sister who is very, very tired of her brother's B.S. (She is the Concierge at a very classy high-dollar hotel.)

What can I say about Diego Luna? He had me at hello. Oh, to be young and in love. I can feel that way easily watching this very pretty and very excellent actor. I had not seen him before though he may have been well known to everyone but me. (Like I said, I haven't gotten out much, but I do consume hundreds of movies a year, I swear!) One line I remember where I really loved Diego's delivery was when Gaddis is telling someone they are conning that Rodrigo is Spanish. Rodrigo corrects him, "Mexican." The Moment was all there. What a jewel!

And there are many, many jewels in this film. It is fast-moving, and if you like to think and figure out puzzles you will be a pig in mud; if you are like me, not so quick to figure it all out, it may take several viewings to catch on to every ruse, but that's so much of the fun of this movie -- and this movie is, indeed, FUN...!

The first-time director, Gregory Jacobs, did a very fine job in my opinion. I personally would have enjoyed for the movie to go at a slower pace, but that's only because I'm a bit slow myself. (smile)

The directing and acting were excellent, and I felt the chemistry was perfect for the story. This is a film I will enjoy seeing again and again. Great story, good acting -- and with actors that are so fun to look at. All three of the main characters (Reilly, Luna and Gyllenhaal) have faces one never gets tired of looking at.

I'm giving it 9 stars only because it was too fast-paced to allow me to relax while enjoying this deeply enjoyable film. Highly recommended unless you are someone who just HAS to see gratuitous sex and violence in order to enjoy a film. For that you have to go elsewhere.

WELL DONE.
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9/10
A Big Bravo! for this California Transplant from Argentina!
gradyharp17 April 2005
As one of the many foreign film devotees who rank writer Fabián Bielinsky's 2000 film NUEVE REINAS from Argentina as one of the best caper films ever, I was completely satisfied with the 'American made version' CRIMINAL. Bielinsky co-wrote this screenplay with director Gregory Jacobs and the result is a terse, witty, fascinating, intelligent film that deserves 5 stars in every category.

Transposing the story (which takes place in one day) to Los Angeles opens up even more avenues of social comment than the original. The use of the various areas of LA that span from the wealth of Beverly Hills to the grandeur of the downtown Biltmore Hotel to the scruffy East LA neighborhoods and other underbellies of Sun City truly match the flow of the story.

Smarmy Richard Gaddis (John C. Reilly) is a small time crook who has experienced every aspect of con games. He dresses like a businessman, drives a Mercedes, and believes that if you're going to con the wealth out of money (which he does without conscience), you must look professional. He observes Rodrigo (Diego Luna) in a cafe doing some very minor con games and when Rodrigo is apparently 'caught', Richard acts the part of a vice officer and saves Rodrigo from being arrested. Here begins their partnership: Richard needs a sideman to assist in an important grifter scheme involving selling a valuable money bill (instead of the stamps with nine queens of the original); Rodrigo (who Richard re-names Brian to Anglicize him so he won't appear a Cholo) needs big money to pay off his father's gambling debt. Through a series of introductory can games they learn to 'trust' each other and the big game begins.

The fast and furious process of the big grift flows with many incidents that are clever, convincingly intriguing, and introduces many characters in its path, each of whom plays a more major role than anyone would expect... Maggie Gylenhaal as Richard's sister Valerie (concierge at the Biltmore) is pulled in unwillingly only after she forces a 'truth session' involving Richard's cheating on their inheritance in front of their brother Michael (Jonathan Tucker), the original forger of the bill Ochoa (Zitto Kazaan), the hit who buys the bill Hannigan (Peter Muller), and all of the apparent bit people in the scheme are superb.

Throughout the story Rodrigo/Brian is portrayed as warm, lovable smalltime beginner, though always ready with a clever intervention, and Richard is the know-it-all conflicted 'boss'. How this relationship mutates is just plain fine writing and acting and the ending of the film is a terrific surprise even to those who know NUEVE REINAS well! Reilly and Luna are perfect choices for these multifaceted roles. Highly Recommended!
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2/10
Something Familiar?
chris-pitcher16 June 2005
Being quite fond of heist/sting/caper movies this looked like it was well worth a hire at the local DVD store when it came out.

After about 5 minutes I was feeling very confused - I was sure had seen it before but it had only just been released. *light goes on over head* - This is very reminiscent of 9 Queens. Ten minutes later... *light goes on over head* - This is a Hollywood remake of 9 Queens. Maybe I'm the only person to watch the movie that didn't know it was remake.

And that, as they say, is that. If you have already seen 9 Queens then this won't hold any surprises for you. The acting, directing etc. etc. are all fine but then again, it was all fine (if not excellent) in 9 Queens. If you haven't seen 9 Queens then watch that instead because it is better.

It just makes me sad that when there are people struggling to get new interesting movies funded, that it is seen as more profitable to do a remake of a film that is only a few years old anyway. Of course we all know the reason for the remake; 9 Queens is not in English and requires that you read subtitles and the 15 to 25 year old American boys that are the prime target for this type of film can't read and chew popcorn at the same time.

If this film had been an original I would be inclined to give it 7 or 8 stars but because the best part of it (the plot) is lifted (and in the final credits it acknowledges 9 Queens) and also because I am really annoyed by pointless remakes - (Don't even mention Nikita!!) I can only summon up 2 stars. What a pointless way to use a great cast and the film making talent that was evidently available for this piece of work.
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excellent
toutou-115 September 2004
I saw the film and loved it. The ending totally threw me. As I drove home I had to rethink the entire film. Every assumptions I had while watching it was wrong. It was a total surprize. Diego is soooo naturally talented; I hope the rest of the world discover him eventually. The rest of the cast was great too. I think the critics who didn't like it were wasting their times comparing it frame for frame with the original film. It would have been nice if they reviewed the film for the millions who've never heard of the original rather than for themselves. I have never seen Nine Queens and I'm glad I didn't because I probably would have been doing the same thing and ruined the experience. I didn't have any preconceived expectations and enjoyed it immensely. Can't wait to see what Diego does next.
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10/10
What a film
porterandprince8 September 2005
I really, really, really think that EVERYONE should see this film. It was one of the most entertaining films I've watched all year. In a world where only morbid/ depressing movies are considered excellent and plot less, big-budget films rule the box-office it is nice to see a smaller budget film that has fun with itself.

The cast in this film is superb. Diego Luna especially gives a great performance. He is endearing, lovable, enthusiastic, and intelligent in his portrayal of "Brian." It was nice to see him in this context and I personally believe that he thrived in the part. He is an excellent actor and i have to admit that I am now a fan.I almost always guess the "surprise" ending in movies that claim to have one, but this film still has me wondering how i didn't get it. Do yourself a favor and see this movie!!!!!!!!!! I don't want to tell you the plot because I don't trust myself not to give anything away. If you enjoy caper/mystery/ entertaining movies go see this one.
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6/10
Definitely Worth Looking For
jaxbubba10 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A very nice film, devoted mainly to two central characters: Richard Gaddis (played by John C. Reilly) and Rodrigo (played by Diego Luna). The film traces a 24-hour period in which the two characters first meet, and subsequently have an opportunity to form partnership. Filmed on a shoestring budget, the movie had only limited released; however, I highly recommend viewing it on rental.

Richard is a con-man in every sense of the word, he's not to be trusted; even his past partners have run the risk of being cheated by him. Rodrigo is a petty thief, and works the small con. Their paths converge when Rodrigo is caught trying to cheat waitresses out of change in a local casino in which Richard is also at. Richard, posing as a local police officer, steps in and takes Rodrigo under custody. Once outside the casino, Richard convinces Rodrigo into working with him.

After a series of short cons, in an attempt to build trust and confidence in one another; Richard is contacted by his sister Valerie (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) in regards to one of Richard's previous partners making contact with her (Valerie) at her job as concierge at the Biltmore Hotel. As it turns out, Richard and Rodrigo are placed into a situation with an opportunity to score the big con. It seems that Richard's former partner, Ochoa, was in the middle of a six-figured con when an impending heart attack struck him incapable of completing the transaction; he is no longer able to complete the deal. Furthermore, Ochoa's "pigeon" departs the U.S. in the next 24-hours due to his Visa expiration; therefore, Ochoa must rely on Richard to finish the con.

What happens next are a sequence of events of "How not to orchestrate the big con", which includes losing the counterfeit item being used for the setup. Richard and Rodrigo are forced to rely on one another whole-heartedly in order to accomplish the final swindle, which included liquidating both their total assets to front the cash required for a duplicate counterfeit item.

The film places you into mind to the con-man, and all the antics required to accomplish the long con. There are no high speed chases, or large scale pyrotechnic involved in this film; just plenty of dialogue and no stop conniving. With the added bonus of a plot twist ending, the film is quite entertaining.

http://farisreel.com
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7/10
Not as bad as i thought...
mickosaer4 November 2004
Before giving any kind of review, it might help to point out a few things about the film:

1) This is the only lead role i've ever seen John C. Reilly in

2) It was produced by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney - the 'Oceans Eleven' comparisons are endless

3) This is a directorial debut by Gregory Jacobs, who's previously worked with the above and others such as the Coen Brothers

4) The film is a remake of a 2000 Argentinian film called 'Nueve Reinas' (Nine Queens)

There are some things about this film that were guaranteed before hand; a razor-sharp script, cool soundtrack and stylish look. However, before attending an advanced showing of the film last night, i checked out the IMDb comments and was not expecting too much. I was, however, pleasantly surprised.

The thing to remember is that the film is not only a remake, but YET ANOTHER addition to an already exhausted Hollywood genre ('The Sting', 'Oceans Eleven' and recently 'Matchstick Men'), and so any originality was going to be hard-earned. But the script is excellent. In the early stages of the film, you feel like Reilly is being a bit heavy-handed with the mannerisms of his intentionally caricatured conman (especially for those familiar with his awesome and similarly heavy-handed and clumsy cop in 'Magnolia', it takes a bit of time to adjust!), but the character definitely grows on him. It is, if nothing else, refreshing to see an actor of his ability given the chance to dominate every scene, and on the whole he takes his chance well.

The real star though, as mentioned elsewhere, is Diego Luna. He plays a fresh-faced and naive rookie-crook who's taken on by Reilly, and throughout the film the interplay between them is a highlight. No questions asked, he steals the show. This was a surprise to me, as i haven't seen him on screen before, but a bit of research shows he was in 'Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights', so this could be some breakthrough! Maggie Gylenhaal was slightly disappointing, as she's been particularly memorable in everything else i've seen from her, but in general the supporting cast is solid.

Where the film really succeeds though, is how it knows and appreciates its audience. From the outset, 'Criminal' appears as a clichéd gag-fest revolving around the two con-men, and you are continually guessing who's going to be screwing who, and the characters often refer to just this. But the plot is complicated (or maybe uncomplicated) enough to maintain the audiences attention, and you'd be kidding yourself if you said you saw the final twist coming.

Very watchable, very cool, very funny, but perhaps in the end a little unsatisfying. Well worth checking out though.
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8/10
Since When Do Get-Rich-Quick Schemes Work?
jzappa27 September 2006
Before setting forth reading my review of Criminal, you must take into account that it's apart of a genre that I cannot get enough of. Even if I finally have gotten out of an obsessive heist/ con phase that lasted almost half a decade, I still glow with infinite enthusiasm when I see one. I've seen Criminal about eight times now. Not as many times as I've seen Ocean's Eleven and Twelve, The Good Thief, Bound, Heist, or Gambit, but considering the amount of time that spans from the present and the time when I first saw it, eight is a big number.

Considering the point of view of someone who is not as enthusiastic about heist and con movies, I would have to say this movie is a forgettable piece of channel-flipping entertainment. It's a very well-written, well-acted movie, but you have to be at least a little bit of a fan of the genre, because there's nothing else you can consider it to be. It has the subtlest elements of comedy, drama, and thriller. It couldn't be ruled out as one of the three, because they each blend in so elusively into the film's atmosphere. If you are a fan of the genre, you are in for a more than satisfying treat, almost an orgasm. If you are not, I suppose you can like it well enough, mainly for John C. Reilly's fantastically sleazy performance.

It's a great con story with truly surprising twists all through the film, beginning with a series of wonderfully clever short cons that are surely not repeated from any other con films (and believe me, even the most obscure con film you can think of I've probably seen). It's a brain- buster but very relaxing to watch, an easy recliner of a movie, possibly thanks to the very plain, simplistic film-making, almost like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. John C. Reilly adds loads to the level of enjoyment one gets out of this movie, very clearly enjoying his genuinely nasty, arrogant, greedy character. He steals every scene, among other things, and makes for one of the most entertaining grifters in the movies, loud and care-free rather than the usual introverted yet unrealistically suave stoic that we usually see as the thief or con artist in these movies. His level of crassness and immorality, which he blatantly cares nothing about, is sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious in that low-brow way.
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1/10
Collosal Waste of Time (and Talent)
jsrinc9 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Someone needs to tell Reilly to hire a new agent. I thought he was above this kind of crap. I begrudgingly sit through 1.5 hours of this only to find out he was being set up by all the but players all along. So we're presupposed to the fact that this was all a master rouse from the start and that John's character just "happens" to find the kid in the cascino as his unwitting accomplice? Give me a freaking break.

I'm all for the suspension of disbelief when watching movies, but this was too much to ask the viewer. There are a dozen other ways to have contrived an justifiable plot without putting the viewers through the ordeal and offering the surprise at the end. This just sucked. I was angry that I had spent my time to watch it- I highly advise that you save yours and pass on this lump of dirt.
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9/10
Stylish crime-caper worth a look
Sweet_Ophelia9 July 2005
After bearing witness to a lousy 'pull' in which wannabe con-artist Rodrigo (Diego Luna) gets busted trying to short-change a waitress, professional conman, Richard Gaddis (John C. Reilly) decides to give the boy a chance to work with an expert. Since his usual partner, 'the Jew', took off last week, Gaddis is in search of a new colleague, and agrees to give Rodrigo one day to hang out with him and see if the pairing works. Rodrigo is especially grateful for the opportunity, since he has been forced to become a criminal (temporarily, of course) to buy his father out of his gambling debts. After showing him a few impressive pulls, Gaddis summarizes that Rodrigo thinks too much, a quality that could work against him in a crisis situation. But just as Gaddis is about to cut Rodrigo off, he gets a call from his 'pain in the ass' sister, Valerie (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who tells him a man has showed up to the 4 star hotel where she works as concierge and demanded to see him. As it turns out this man, Ochoa (Zitto Kazann) has the perfect pull for Gaddis, involving a forged bank note and one very wealthy business man (Peter Mullan) who is willing to buy; but Ochoa needs the right man to make the six-figure deal. Now Gaddis needs Rodrigo to help him make this con, and also his sister who he is currently in a law-suit with….

"Criminal" is a re-make of what I am told is a less than impressive Argentine film "Nine Queens". I haven't seen this original, but I can confirm that its remake, "Criminal" is an absolute gem. Following and keeping up with other con-man flicks such as "matchstick men" and "catch me if you can", "Criminal" is smart, sleek and classy. Director Gregory Jacobs has made a very clean, bold and stylish film; with some great cinematography and superb scene editing.

John C. Reilly, who has primarily played supporting roles in some seriously prestigious films; Chicago, The Aviator, The Hours; finally gets a chance to show that he is leading-man material, and more than capable of holding his own. He can be powerful, funny and is extremely engaging. Diego Luna, who has so far had more success with his Spanish films such as the highly acclaimed "Y tu mamá también", and little success breaking into the American market with such duds as "Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights", "Open Range" and "The Terminal"; really finds his feet in 'Criminal'. He is funny, energetic and darn sexy in a role which really suits and that he makes the most of. Maggie Gyllenhaal, forever diverse, holds her own against the talented and impressive Reilly and Luna; playing a tough but cool character.

All in all, 'Criminal' is a stylized crime-caper, which is refreshingly witty, fast-paced and jazzily filmed. A definite must-see. 9/10.
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Why remake "Nine Queens"?
tiger021214 June 2004
After sitting through the world premiere of "Criminal", I spent the whole movie trying to remember where I had seen this script before, and then the credits mention that it was adapted from the script of a great British film called "Nine Queens", which was out only a few years ago.

Except for exchanging a postage stamp for a rare currency bill, there is no originality in this adapted screenplay. Similar to the remake of "Psycho", if you are going to film a scene-for-scene remake, then why do it?

I can only hope that this movie causes people to seek out the original "Nine Queens", so that it gets the recognition it deserves in America.

It's truly sad that the first film from someone who has worked for years as an assistant director couldn't be something more innovative, original, or unique.
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6/10
An Implausible Ending Ruins a Good Film
driver_811 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I like movies that center around the "con." It is like watching a complicated puzzle being put together. You pay attention to everything. Moreover, as each little event happens, you analyze the potential hidden importance of it. In

"Criminal", you follow Reilly's character as he comes up with various ways to scam people. His character is a somewhat heartless individual that stopped

having a conscience sometime ago. Still, there is something to him that gives you empathy for the character. Needing a new partner, he recruits a young

confidence man (Luna). Right after recruiting this new partner (in a somewhat random way), the two of them plot a major con. This con is elaborate and rather clever. It is the kind of con that would take months to develop and countless hours of rehearsal. Hence the problem.

(SPOILER ALERT).

This movie has the inevitable big twist at the end. The switch is that the

character played by Luna, is actually scamming Reilly's character. As I watched the first 80 minutes of this film, I really enjoyed it. However, the last two minutes killed it. Why? Because the implausible ending made the whole rest of the film insane. There is no way this elaborate scheme could have been run. After all, it was Reilly that sought out Luna, not the other way. The elaborate set of events that were set up for the big sting were all designed to take place that day. How? How could these relations have been developed? They could not have been.

Great performances, but the ending was just stupid! I know that this movie is a re-do of an Argentinian film, this does not bother me. However, if the Argentinian film had the same implausible ending as this one, it should not have been

copied at all.
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Conned...
JoeytheBrit19 September 2005
Character actor John C. Reilly, owner of a homely face familiar to everyone and a name familiar to none, takes centre stage in this slick and clever con film. He plays the part of Richard Gaddis, professional grifter with a heart of stone and zero scruples who saves novice conman Rodrigo (Diego Luna) from arrest in a casino and takes him under his wing. As Gaddis shows Rodrigo the ropes, a major league sting comes there way that requires both men to throw in everything they possess if they are to pull it off.

It appears that it's obligatory these days for any film about grifters to have a twist ending – even when, as in this case, the twist causes irreparable damage to the movie as a whole. It's not the fact that there is a twist here that's the problem so much as its very nature – it just refuses to be believable. Some films, the twist slaps you square in the face and you experience a moment or two of denial before you realise that, yeah, it works: the makers fooled you and provided an improbable – but plausible – outcome. But with Criminal, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't accept the ending.

The film is very much of its time – i.e. the dog-eat-dog 21st century, a period of excess and greed unparalleled in history – and offers us a group of amoral thieves and conmen to root for in the absence of any true heroes. Young Rodrigo is the notional hero because he is ostensibly an altruistic conman, hustling casinos waitresses for 50 bucks a shakedown in order to help his diabetic father pay off the $70,000 gambling debt he owes a Russian gangster. Gaddis has no redeeming features whatsoever, and yet grows increasingly sympathetic – or at least less unlikeable – as the film progresses. The elaborate con in which the duo become embroiled – an attempt to sell a fake rare hundred dollar note to a business tycoon – involves the participation of a large cast, all of whom add to the seriously convoluted plot as it follows fresh – and occasionally, it has to be said, unlikely – twists and turns every five minutes or so. Sit and think about it for more than a couple of minutes and the whole thing falls apart, but then you're not supposed to think too hard about a film like this: it's supposed to be more of a visceral experience, a film for the moment, and in that respect it shares the same characteristics as the cons it portrays. It doesn't care if you're wise after the fact because by then its job is complete and it's moved on…

The performances are all of a high calibre, especially from the two principals and Maggie Gyllenhaal in a too-small role as Gaddis's sister, a concierge at the ritzy hotel in which the sting takes place. As I mentioned earlier, you know from the off that there's going to be a twist, and half the fun is trying to figure out who's going to get stung but, sadly, it's you the viewer who ends up feeling cheated. Had the ending been stronger – or even believable – Criminal might have received top marks but, as it is, it only earns an 8/10.
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No chemistry between stars, illogical plot.
atmpr326 June 2004
This first scene of this film contained more action than the rest of this rather tedious, bland remake of a recent Argentine film (which I have not seen.) There was virtually no chemistry between the two leads, Reilly and Luna. Sad sack Reilly, despite a decent performance, was miscast as the professional con man and Gyllenhaal was wasted in a minor role as Reilly's sister. Luna gave the best performance in the film as the young protégé. Scottish actor Peter Mullan played the "mark," a streetsmart "Irish" billionaire whose accent slipped from Scot to Irish every other line! By the time the surprise ending rolled around I didn't care who were the good guys, who were bad guys nor the motivations of either. The screenplay, although illogical and far-fetched, included a few good lines but I don't know if they were translated from the original film or written especially for this remake. Luckily, I saw this film at a screening and didn't have to shell out $10 for a ticket!
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10/10
Don't miss this one! It is SO good!
WaltDinLV24 August 2005
I debated about watching this or Nine Queens first. I'm glad I chose this one. And I chose it first because of the very familiar cast and, I guess, the English language.

WOW! This movie right away sucks you in and gets you involved. You love the characters, the plot twists, and can't wait (or guess) what happens next! This is a heist movie with lots of "grifts" or swindles done throughout. I love this stuff! Reminds me of Sneakers and Grifters.

John C Reilly is always great, of course. Diego Luna steps up well to a starring role, and English-speaking, at that. Maggie Gyllenhaal is sexy as ever. This movie is just so much fun! And yes, I have NOW seen Nine Queens (or Nueve reinas) and it's good- 8 stars- but not quite THIS good.

Walt D in LV. 8/24/2005
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1/10
Avoid this film like the plague! Terrible!
notimeforfailures21 March 2005
A collection of poorly acted parts, with Diego Luna the only positive of any note.

How anyone can think this film is any good is beyond me. The plot is disjointed and random, the casting is terrible, the storyline is uninteresting and to top it all, the ending is ridiculous in the extreme. Never have I seen so many people walk out of a cinema early. Maggie Gyllenhaal, usually so good (Donnie Darko, Mona Lisa Smile) was wooden and her character lacked any credibility; John C. Reilly is atrocious, partly at least due to a pitiful script whose only goal seemed to be to pad out the minutes before the film got to its end; Diego Luna was likable and moderately adept, but couldn't make a difference to the film on his own.

This is the worst film I've seen since Antz... and that was animated!
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9/10
Criminal is Exquisite!!!
stabnik111 September 2004
Everything about this movie is superb. Though I never saw the movie it is a remake of, I loved the plot with all its twists and turns. And you are hypnotized by keeping up with "who's scamming who", and what could possibly happen next. The acting is brilliant!! John C. Reilly, Diego Luna, and Maggie Guillenhal are absolutely fantastic. I've always been a fan of Diego Luna, since "Y Tu Mama Tambien", and he doesn't disappoint here, as a young grifter type. As the Richard Gaddis (Reilly) character says, Luna's character just looks like a nice guy, but you never quite know for sure where he's at. It's his little looks and expressions - and Luna handles it brilliantly. And John C. Reilly provides a fascinating characterization of a self-centered, yet somehow "down and out", grifter - who you never quite trust.

Highly recommended movie!!! It pulls you in from the start, and takes you on a ride. Full of surprises, delivered with ease and perfection. I SOOO loved this movie. Don't miss it!!! (I just know that when it's out on DVD, I'll be buying a copy to keep.)
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3/10
Bad copy of "Nueve Reinas"
MaDJiK7 August 2005
My vote for 9 Queens, 3 or 4 years ago: 10/10.

This one: 3/10. :-(

-

Bad remake, nothing attractive in this movie. Stupid ending (different from the original), a little boring, we don't always understand what happens...

During the whole movie, we don't feel the stress of the characters. Not because they are bad actors but the movie is not enough realistic, it's difficult to imagine their thoughts.

I totally agree those who say to watch 9 Queens instead.

Why remake it? There is nothing to change to 9 Queens, the actors are perfect and the story is great. More credible than Criminal.
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5/10
amateur hour
tvspace11 September 2004
Criminal is a clumsy, amateurish indie film working over the heist/con-artist genre without anything new to bring to the table. John C. Reilly is miscast as the grifter at the center of the movie. The script presumes that we will slowly grow to detest him over the course of the film, but Reilly's sad-sack persona makes him too sympathetic to play the part. At the same time he utterly lacks the devilish charisma that would make the movie fun to watch. The result feels like a long road trip in the middle of winter with an awkward relative who has bad breath.

Diego Luna's performance as Rodrigo is one of the few bright spots in the movie, but his character ultimately is just a stereotype of Mexican-American immigrants in Los Angeles. When the film posits that, although living in LA, he's never been to Westwood or Beverly Hills, you can only groan.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is repulsive as Reilly's sister. Whether this was intentional or another case of miscasting is in doubt.

Finally, without giving anything away, the ending of the movie is just plain dumb. Of all the delectable possibilities the filmmakers chose the most obvious, simplistic and heavy-handed conclusion available.

All in all a forgettable, unsatisfying movie.
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4/10
Bad copy of "Nueve Reinas"
johncoffey25 April 2005
This film is based on another film! It's a bad starting point. Now the worst thing is that the original one is far better than this copy. It's much a copy than a "based on" kind of thing.

Don't waste your time and see the original, more details of original movie (Nueve Reinas):

http://www.IMDb.com/title/tt0247586/

with 7,6/10 IMDb votes (over 3500 votes)

This film is based on another film! It's a bad starting point. Now the worst thing is that the original one is far better than this copy. It's much a copy than a "based on" kind of thing.
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8/10
If for no other reason, watch it for the ending!!!
Pookyiscute13 February 2006
I was going to give this a 7, but by the time I got to the end, I automatically gave it one point up, just for being so clever. The film is a classic con-artist flick, and those are awesome to watch. They make you think, and they're fun.

John C. Reilly, although he was good as usual, just didn't make a good leading man. It's not only that he doesn't have the right face for it, but it's everything else about him too. Not the right voice, personality and charisma that another actor might. He's a terrific character actor, and perhaps that's why they gave him this role, because it is a character driven part, but, the difference is, that he's carrying the movie basically on his own, and for him, it just didn't work really well. His co-star was excellent, and cute to boot. I saw him in one another film. 'The Terminal' with Tom Hanks, but that's the only other film I've ever seen him in. There is some Spanish in it, too which made the film a little more interesting, and the directing was just artsy enough to give it a little bit of flavor. However, there were times when the film was a little dry and could of used a bit of seasoning, if you catch my drift.

Maggie Gyllanhaal was great, and well casted for this part. I think she is a very overlooked actress and in a way follows Johnny Depp's paths, as a somewhat newcomer to Hollywood, picking films that are more interesting than cliché or stereotypical Hollywood, so to speak.

The film itself though, was well-written, and other than the mistake of John C. Reilly as I said before in the lead, it was well-casted also. There is, other than some foul language from time to time, nothing to be offended by, no sexual content, no nudity, and no violence. With that, I will say it's one of the better interesting films I've seen in a long time, and will keep it in mind for recommending it to people that I see. And, I recommend it, in fact, right now, to you!
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