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By Admin | September 15, 2004

The Soderbergh-Clooney posse is back again with the unremarkable caper “Criminal,” a poor man’s “Ocean’s 11.” John C. Reilly stars as grifter Richard Gaddis, the kind of guy who would scam a kindly old lady out of 100 bucks by posing as her grandson, or who would rather pretend to get run over in a gas station than pay for gas himself. “I’ve got a lifestyle to support,” he says. Richard spots young Rodrigo (Diego Luna) conning casino waitresses and takes him under his wing, grooming him as a partner. “We gotta Anglo you off a little,” he tells Rodrigo, re-christening him Brian. Meanwhile, Richard is embattled with his concierge sister, Valerie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), in a legal dispute over money left to their younger brother, Michael (Jonathan Tucker). Richard and Rodrigo happen upon an opportunity to make a six-figure score, but their cohorts keep cutting themselves a bigger slice of the pie. Despite some very funny scenes and effortless performances from Reilly, Luna, and Gyllenhaal (though the incredibly talented Ms. Gyllenhaal remains underused), “Criminal” is not smooth or seductive enough to coerce you into taking it at face value. You’re likely to waste half the movie anticipating the big doublecross you’re sure is right around the corner. (Sorry, but I’m contractually bound not to give away the ending, no matter how disappointing it may be.) As far as conmen movies go, the superior “Matchstick Men” did a much better job roping you in. But “Criminal” can be fun. Just don’t think about it too hard.

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