In Los Angeles, Richard Gaddis and a Mexican immigrant named Rodrigo, both small time con men, meet in the progress of one of their cons gone wrong, the other who proves to be the savior in the situation. Richard is looking for someone to replace his old partner, "the Jew", so that he can move onto bigger cons, while Rodrigo is trying to obtain money to help his ill father pay off some major debts. Despite their differences in operation - Richard whose cons are more in your face and he working on the premise that one needs to look rich to get rich, while Rodrigo doesn't like to bring attention to himself and thus his grifting ways - they decide to join forces. Although neither fully trusts the other, their partnership is forged on what the other can do for him: Richard figures that Rodrigo's innocent look can play to their advantage, while Rodrigo - who Richard renames "Brian" to make him seem more Caucasian and thus trustworthy - sees working with Richard as a means to get to his ...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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