Principal photography began on September 4, 2014, in London. The film was produced by Campbell-Grobman Films and Millennium Films and was released on April 15, 2016.
When Spanish industrialist-turned-anarchist Xavier Heimdahl arranges for his associate Jan Strook—a hacker known as "the Dutchman"—to create a wormhole program that would allow the owner to bypass all computer codes protecting the world's nuclear defense codes, the Dutchman panics and attempts to hand his secret over to the CIA. He makes contact with London-based agent Bill Pope, but although Pope is able to get the Dutchman to a safe house and recover the money to pay him for his services, he is caught by Heimdahl's men and tortured to death before he can tell anyone where he hid the Dutchman.
Desperate to find the Dutchman, Pope's CIA supervisor Quaker Wells contacts Dr. Micah Franks, who has developed a treatment that could theoretically plant the memory patterns of a dead man onto a living one. Keeping Pope's brain stimulated to preserve its knowledge, Franks requests that convict Jerico Stewart be the subject of the procedure, as Stewart's criminal behavior is the result of childhood brain trauma leaving him with an underdeveloped frontal lobe, hindering his emotional development and impulse control, that they can use to "graft" Pope's knowledge into Stewart's mind.
While the process initially appears unsuccessful, Jerico is able to escape custody while being transferred after the operation, faking his death and heading to Pope's house, where he ties Pope's wife, Jillian, to her bed and gags her mouth with duct tape, is able to disable the house alarms and delay an investigation of the silent alarm which Jillian manages to activate. As time goes on, he experiences memory flashes of Pope's past, but all he can determine is that the bag of money was hidden behind a shelf of books relating to George Orwell, without identifying where it or the Dutchman are kept.
The CIA becomes increasingly anxious to find the Dutchman when they learn that he is now planning to sell the program to the Russians, believing that the CIA has betrayed him. Fortunately, they are able to find Jerico after he contacts Dr. Franks for medication using Pope's CIA codes, Franks's questioning confirming that Jerico is developing emotions as well as drawing on Pope's experience. As Jerico attempts to retrace the route Pope took to hide the Dutchman, Heimdahl creates a distraction at the airport that draws Quaker's attention, allowing Heimdahl's henchwoman Elsa to try and capture Jerico, killing his CIA guards before Jerico escapes by driving off a bridge.
His leg injured in his escape, Jerico retreats to the Pope house, where he encounters Jillian and explains the situation to her. Although initially concerned, Jillian comes to accept Jerico's story as she sees him interacting with her daughter, Emma, allowing Jerico to stay the night. Jerico forms a bond with the two. The next morning, Jerico realizes through a conversation with Jillian that the bag is hidden in the rare books collection at the University of London where she works. He attempts to retrieve the bag, but he is captured by Heimdahl and Elsa once he has found it. Heimdahl forces him to take them to the Dutchman or he will kill Jillian and Emma.
With the CIA and a Russian strike team now seeking the Dutchman, Jerico—who has recalled that Pope hid the Dutchman in Jillian's office at the university—is able to escape Elsa using an improvised nitro-glycerine bomb, returning to the office to provide a hurried explanation to the Dutchman. The two are caught by Elsa before they can escape, Jerico is shot in the shoulder and after she kills the Dutchman, Jerico knocks her out with a potted cactus before killing her by bashing her head in with a lamp.
Taking the flash drive containing the wormhole program to the airfield where Heimdahl is attempting an escape, Jeriho is able to save Jillian and Emma despite Quaker's protests about the danger Heimdahl could pose with the program. As Heimdahl's plane takes off, Jerico reveals to Quaker that he had the Dutchman reprogram the wormhole so that it would target the source of the next transmission, resulting in Heimdahl unwillingly destroying his own plane when he tries to fire a missile at the airfield.
A few months later, Jerico is shown on the beach where Pope and Jillian had their honeymoon, initially unresponsive to anything but automatic reflexes and responses. With all other options exhausted, Quaker and Franks take Jillian and Emma to see him, the sight of Pope's family confirming that some part of Pope exists in Jerico when he responds with a nose-tap that was Pope and Jillian's way of saying "I love you" in private. Witnessing this, Quaker reflects that he will offer Jerico a job.Kevin Costner as Jerico Stewart
Gal Gadot as Jillian "Jill" Pope
Tommy Lee Jones as Dr. Micah Franks
Gary Oldman as Quaker Wells
Alice Eve as Marta Lynch
Michael Pitt as Jan Strook
Jordi Mollà as Xavier Heimdahl
Antje Traue as Elsa Mueller
Scott Adkins as Pete Greensleeves
Amaury Nolasco as Esteban Ruiza
Ryan Reynolds as Bill Pope
Colin Salmon as Warden
Tommy Hatto as Captain Burrows
Robert Davi as Admiral Lance (uncredited)
Richard Reid as James Osborne
Natalie Burn as Shoo Shoo
Lara Decaro as Emma Pope
On June 20, 2013, it was announced that Millennium Films had acquired the script for Criminal, written by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg, an action film in which a dead CIA operative's memories, secrets, and skills are implanted into a dangerous prison criminal, who is sent on a government mission. J.C. Spink, Chris Bender, Matthew O'Toole and Mark Gill produced the film. On September 13, Millennium set Ariel Vromen to direct the film.
On June 17, 2014, Kevin Costner was cast to play the dangerous criminal with a dead CIA operative's skills, secrets, and memories implanted into him to finish a job. On July 10, Gary Oldman was in talks to join the film to play the CIA chief. On July 23, Tommy Lee Jones joined the film to play a neuroscientist who transplants the memories to the criminal, while Oldman's role was also confirmed. On August 4, Ryan Reynolds was added to the cast. On August 7, Alice Eve joined the cast of the film. On August 11, Jordi Mollà joined the film in the villain role of Hagbardaka Heimbahl, who wants the dead CIA agent's secrets now implanted in the criminal's brain. On August 12, Gal Gadot signed on to star in the film as Reynolds's character's wife. On September 26, Antje Traue joined the film to play a terrorist's henchwoman.
Principal photography on the film began on September 4, 2014, in London. On September 8, actor Reynolds was spotted on a bike during the filming of some scenes in the streets of London. On September 16, Costner and Gadot were spotted at the Camber Sands during filming in East Sussex. Some actors and crews were also spotted filming scenes for the film on King's Road in Kingston. From September 22–25, filming was taking place in Yateley, Hampshire, where actors were spotted filming car crashes and helicopter chase scenes at the Blackbushe Airport. Filming was also done in Croydon College in Croydon, with the college building used as medical research labs and the CIA operations centre. In October 2014, Connect 2 Cleanrooms installed a cleanroom in Surrey Quays Road, London, for the scene where Tommy Lee Jones's character operates on Kevin Costner's. On October 23, aerial drone filming was undertaken featuring Costner in a car chase scene on White's Row in East London. Some filming also took place at the SOAS University of London library.
On December 9, 2014, it was announced that Haim Mazar had signed on to compose the music of the film. However, on June 10, 2015, according to Film Music Reporter, it was announced that Brian Tyler and Keith Power had taken over scoring duties on the film, replacing Mazar.
The film was to be released on January 22, 2016 in the United States, but in August 2015 the release was pushed back to April 15, 2016.
Criminal has grossed $14.7 million in North America and $24.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $38.8 million.
In the United States and Canada, pre-release tracking suggested the film would gross $9–12 million from 2,683 theaters in its opening weekend, trailing fellow newcomers The Jungle Book ($67–75 million projection) and Barbershop: The Next Cut ($27–30 million projection). The film ended up grossing just $5.8 million in its opening weekend, below expectations, and the eighth-worst wide-release opening of Costner's career, finishing 6th at the box office.
Criminal has received generally negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 30%, based on 115 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10. The site's consensus reads, "Despite the valiant efforts of a game and talented cast, Criminal has little to offer beyond the bare minimum expected by the most undemanding of genre enthusiasts." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 37 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.
In his review, Empire magazine's John Nugent wrote: "We can but pray that scientists invent a procedure to remove the memory of ever watching this film in the first place," and awarded the film 1 star out of 5. Writing for The Telegraph, Tim Robey called it "wanton, low-down entertainment" and awarded it 2 stars out of 5. BBC film critic Mark Kermode placed it in fifth place in his mid-year list of the Worst Films of 2016.