A conman Roy, gets dumped by his girl-friend. Then he finds out he has a fatal disease. On the verge of death, he resolves to do some good, by helping his apprentice Dittu hoodwink the mobster who hurt his (Dittu's) family.
Two grifters - boyish, likable Rodrigo and the scheming, cynical Richard - meet by chance. Richard, who has cheated everyone he knows, including his siblings, is missing his partner, so he offers Rodrigo a job for a day. Rodrigo accepts because he has some savings, but needs more to pay his father's gambling debts. Richard gets a call when an aging, ill ex-associate needs help to sell a forged treasury note to a businessman whose visa is expiring the next day, a wealthy man who sees a chance to turn a quick profit buying what he thinks is a stolen document. When the con men have to improvise, Richard asks Rodrigo to use his savings to set up the deal. Is Rodrigo being conned? Written by
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 ...
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