Title: Criminal Activities
Director: Jackie Earle Haley
Writer: Robert Lowell
Cast: John Travolta, Dan Stevens, Michael Pitt , Jackie Earle Haley, Christopher Abbott, Rob Brown, Edi Gathegi,
Running time: 94 minutes
Rating: Unrated (Language, violence, drug use, sex, and nudity)
In theaters, VOD and iTunes on Friday, November 20th
Three high school friends attend the funeral of Matthew (Chris Haley) their ex-classmates that bit the big one by walking in front of a bus. Zach (Michael Pitt, Boardwalk Empire) the pseudo-successful Wall Street schmuck. Warren (Christopher Abbott, Girls) is celebrating 20 days sober. Bryce (Rob Brown, Blindspot) is the level headed one. They decide to meet up at a bar after the funeral to catch up, when the nerdy Noah (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey), crashes their get together. After some herbal refreshment, Bryce tells them about a stock tip that could make them all some money, only they need to invest $200k. None of them have the cash, but Noah claims he can get the money, and they all agree to go for it. Cut to a month later, the CEO of the company they invested in is arrested and the stocks are useless. Zach gets snagged by Gerry (Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children) and his partner Little Mike (Christopher Jay Gresham) who work for the money lender, who tell him to gather his friends and meet their boss at the Royale Hotel at 3 o’clock. There they meet with Eddie (John Travolta, Pulp Fiction) who tells them they all now owe $400k. The trio turns on Noah, because they now know he borrowed money from the mob. Eddie is willing to erase their debt if they can kidnap the nephew of the gangster that kidnapped Eddie’s niece, and hold him until a deal can be made. Once they manage to obtain their target Marques (Edi Gathegi, The Blacklist), they out find this little caper just got a bit more complex.
The Good: It’s not a bad first film for Jackie Earle Haley. I found his character more interesting than the lot. They could most definitely do a spin-off/sequel with his character with Little Mike, and I would look forward to seeing that. The “ah-ha” twist at the end was fun. The dialogue is smart, and the’re heaps of repeatable one liners.
The Bad: The title sucks; it’s totally wrong for this film. Can’t fault writer Robert Lowell with that, this script is old AF. It’s hard to blame him for the many cliches that probably originated with him when he was going to high school with the dudes that wrote the Old Testament. John Travolta’s makeup was laughably bad, from the wig to the spackled foundation with odd skin tone. They might as well had smeared Vaseline on the camera lens and saved a few bucks. How many anti-bullying revenge on your tormentors plot twist is going to get regurgitated? We get it, bullying is bad. Be careful whom you f— with because they’ll end up f—ing you. Message noted.
The Tarantino-esque twist at the end of the film felt little too late, though if you’re looking to be entertained, you’ll get your money’s worth.
Total Rating: C+
Reviewed by: JM Willis