The Criminal

dir-scr Julian Simpson
with Steven Mackintosh, Holly Aird, Bernard Hill, Eddie Izzard, Yves Attal, Natasha Little, Barry Stearn, Jana Carpenter, Daniel Brocklebank, Justin Shevlin, Georgia MacKenzie, Andrew Tiernan
99/UK 4 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
With a Hitchcockian premise and a lush, professional sheen, The Criminal is a solid, well-made, atmospheric British thriller. Newcomer Julian Simpson shows considerable talent both in the direction and the script, which may follow traditional plotlines but veers off in unexpected directions now and then.

At the centre is J (Mackintosh), a hapless London musician who can't believe his luck when his lame pick-up lines work on a gorgeous woman (Little), who follows him back to his flat. But before he knows what's happened, she's violently killed and two detectives (Aird and Hill) have settled on him as the prime suspect, even though the cynical forensics expert (Izzard) can't find any substantial evidence. Then as J tries to clear his name, he gets in far deeper, stumbling onto what looks like an international conspiracy. Or something.

The screenplay includes enough clever and funny dialogue to keep our minds off the story's implausibilities. Mackintosh is excellent as the man wrongly accused ... and pursued beyond what he could ever imagine. As he is pushed deeper and deeper into the sinister goings on, encountering creepy characters of the London underworld, we are taken with him. And we very quickly begin to wonder how he will ever get out of it. The surrounding cast adds perfectly to the sense of menace, and Simpson makes nice use of flashbacks to fill in the gaps (even with those Murder She Wrote how-they-did-it clips at the end). Slick, ominous, chilling--great stuff.

[15--themes, language, violence] 19.Oct.99
UK release 12.Jan.00

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1999 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall