Gregory Jacobs

Long time assistant director to Steven Soderbergh, Gregory Jacobs co-wrote what was to become his directorial debut with Soderbergh who used the pseudonym Sam Lowry. Based on Fabian Bielinsky’s brilliant Argentinean film Nine Queens, Criminal plays especially well to audience members who haven’t seen the original and for the rest of us, as a slightly above average remake the manages to fly essentially because of the compelling talent onscreen. John C. Reilly is the ideal choice to play sleazy, smooth conman Richard Gaddis who, after cheating everyone he meets including old partners and even his two siblings, happens upon a young charming upstart named Rodrigo (Y tu Mama Tambien and The Terminal’s Diego Luna) running a short cash con in a casino and propositions him to serve as his partner/trainee for the day until either one gets sick of the other. Of course, it feels distinctly like a set-up as Richard encounters the con of a lifetime in needing Rodrigo’s help to sell a forged note from the U.S. Treasury Department to a foreign businessman whose visa is set to expire the following day but the film operates like a con itself, leading viewers down the first of several twists and turns so that we’re never quite sure which character, if any is on the “up and up.” Smooth and controlling, Reilly easily dominates the sweet and adorable Luna but it’s fun to watch his game brought to another level when he encounters Maggie Gyllenhaal as his determined, long-suffering sister Valerie who’s been victimized by her brother one too many times and now may have the upper hand when the two conmen are forced to make their transaction in the posh hotel where she works. Tense and fast-paced clocking in at under 90 minutes, Criminal is a fun diversion yet in the sea of great films about stings and matchstick men, it’s not as memorable as its previous version Nine Queens.