dir. Jacobs
Opens Fri Sept 10
Various Theaters

Some films get good use out of a surprise ending, using it as a supplemental device to add depth and poignancy to already interesting themes and characters, like Fight Club or The Sixth Sense. But most films that employ it rely on it completely, and without the ending twist, the preceding film would be nothing. Like Criminal.

Now, even though I haven't told you what Criminal's twist is, I imagine some of you are already scratching your heads right now, thinking, "Asshole! I didn't want to know about the twist! Now I'm going to be looking for it the whole time!" Fear not, my cinematically paranoid friends, for Criminal's twist is good enough that you will be fooled, despite my preface. I had actually seen a version of this movie before--it's a remake of the popular Argentinean film Nine Queens--and even I was still caught off guard by the twist. And besides, I have to tell you the twist exists--because there's no way in hell you'd want to see this movie based purely on plot synopsis.

Criminal follows Rodrigo (Diego Luna), a petty conman who teams up with Richard (John C. Reilly), a conman who's equally petty, but far more skilled. Through various complicated connections, the duo becomes embroiled in a deal involving a counterfeit print of an extremely valuable piece of collectors' currency. The deal could net them hundreds of thousands of dollars... unless they fuck up.

Thus the journey begins towards Criminal's surprise ending. Criminal's heist doesn't involve something cool and gritty like drugs or terrorism plots. Instead, it involves a counterfeit bill (the Argentinean version involved some valuable stamps. Pansies!), and is thus almost completely devoid of suspense. Fortunately for those backing this film (most notably, producers Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney) Reilly is terrific--shifting fluidly from a bumbling doofus to a fast-talking bully--Luna is as charming as ever, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, as Richard's vengeful sister, is the most gorgeous, elegant actress in Hollywood. These three could pitch hay for two hours and I'd be interested. While Criminal is about as lightweight as the aforementioned hay, it's made far more enjoyable by its performances and wholly worthwhile finale.