The less you know about con caper Criminal the more you'll enjoy it. Still reading? OK: just don't say we didn't warn you. John C Reilly stars as a world-weary grifter who saves a wannabe criminal (Diego Luna) from being busted and trains him up for a big sting. It's a solid little thriller, but it's hard to avoid the feeling you've seen it all before - and not just because it's a remake of Argentinean critical hit Nine Queens.
How much you get out of Criminal may depend on how well you know this type of movie. Fresh audiences will find much to appreciate (the dialogue, the acting), but it's never quite clever enough to surprise fans of the genre. Reilly - the cop in Magnolia - is excellent, his ingrained charisma giving his caddish character heart. Luna watches and learns. Maggie Gyllenhaal, as a hotel worker drawn into their schemes, balances sexiness with fragility.
"GO AND WATCH THIS IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT"
Debut writer/director Gregory Jacobs (long-time assistant director to Ocean's Twelve's Steven Soderbergh) captures a bustling, refreshing side to Los Angeles. The script (which Soderbergh co-wrote under the pseudonym Sam Lowry) is also faithful to the original film, while tweaking it enough to deal with a couple of plausibility problems. Go and watch this in the right spirit - open to being spun a yarn, not looking for the catch - and you'll have fun. But don't go expecting the unexpected.