It is possible that a far more boring film than David Jacobson’s “Criminal” exists, but this writer would happily wager extraordinary amounts of moolah to prove that nothing can match “Criminal” for sheer undiluted monotony. Bad films can set off a flood of emotions ranging from homicidal fantasies to waves of disgust, but a film which turns on the Zzzzz’s is the deadliest of duds…and “Criminal,” sadly, is indie cinema’s answer to a double-dose of novocaine.”Criminal” fails on so many levels that one is challenged to consider how such a mess could get made. Clearly the film’s plot offered nothing to intrigue an audience: a whiny number-cruncher for a Manhattan pharmaceutical firm embezzles a handsome slice of cash so he can buy a house on Staten Island for his bitch of a wife–but after making the home purchase with nano-second speed, he discovers the Mrs in the shower with a more intriguing fella!
After going off to a neighboring marsh to vomit (which is capped by the unexpected appearance of his parking lot attendant with belated admission of causing a minor fender bender), the would-be criminal takes their son out of his elementary school science class and heads off on a road trip to Niagara Falls. The embezzlement gets discovered, the confused kid is dropped off with the guy’s ninny-sister upstate, a silly would-be flight attendant hooks up with the guy for a quick session of motel intercourse and…are you still awake?
Further complicating matters is the film’s dismal sense of style: grainy, pretentious black-and-white cinematography which barely hides the poverty of the production and only contributes to the sense of slumber. Annoyingly artsy shots in silhouette and asymmetrical scene blocking, coupled with recurring tracking shots of pricey houses, airplanes in flight and Niagara Falls, only adds to the visual confusion. The film’s sole laugh comes in a lengthy sequence in a storm, which is presented in the most the dreadfully obvious artificial depiction of falling rain imaginable.Icing this soggy cake are the performances from the no-star cast. Ralph Feliciello stars as the white-collar miscreant and he wanders through the film with a moany voice and a gloomy expression that suggests an antacid-hungry heartburn patient who arrives at the pharmacy five minutes after it closed. Why anyone would want to center a film around such a character is a mystery and Feliciello’s performance is clearly the least interesting criminal to turn up on screen in ages. The other actors, none of whom deserve special attention, bump around the screen in various degrees of annoyance and spit out their lines with dyspeptic contempt. Did anyone actually have fun making this film? To its credit, “Criminal” runs a relatively brief 77 minutes. Whether this short running time can be attributed to a shortage of cash, film stock or ideas is open to debate. Yet even with such a short running time, this painfully bad crime flick is still too much of a very bad thing. Where’s “Ocean’s 11” when you really need it?