Tommy Lee Jones Joins Science Fiction Thriller Criminal

Few actors have the sort of split between work quite like Tommy Lee Jones. The man seems to be only half-interested in some movies, and completely plugged in during others. Usually, it's the smaller films that earn his full dedication; the larger ones have him playing some variation of bored, stubborn old man. Now that he's signed onto Criminal , however, what personality will take over?

The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Tommy Lee Jones is joining Kevin Costner and Gary Oldman in Criminal, a pretty silly-sounding thriller from Millennium and director Ariel Vromen. The plot concerns a dead CIA operative's thoughts and memories being transferred (accidentally, I hope) into the mind of a dangerous convict. Within those memories is the key to a massive terrorist plot that must be stopped, but the feds will have to trust a mysterious, unreliable criminal. Or maybe a friendly, handsome, likable criminal who is imprisoned after being wrongly accused, since he's being played by All-American Kevin Costner.

Jones will be playing the neuroscientist who pioneers this technology and leads the operation, while Oldman is the CIA man who shepherds the project through completion. Just gonna go ahead and assume there will be a severe philosophical battle between the principled scientist and the at-all-costs lawman. Normally this would be a lame cliché, but in this case, it definitely feels like Jones should be playing the stern task-master and Oldman the compassionate man of science, as he was in this year's Robocop . It could be nice to see the plainspoken Jones in a more cerebral role than his recent work. As for Oldman, he, of course, contains multitudes.

Jones last popped up in Luc Besson's woeful The Family last year. You'd think he would perk up getting to star alongside Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfieffer, but instead he was his same gruff unhappy self, a hard-pressing fed with little-to-no patience for the ex-hood played by De Niro. A scene in a library where he goes against Jones' wishes and tells old mob stories is accompanied by pained reaction shots of Jones looking irritated and unhappy, but those moments might as well be edited in from any other part of the film. Jones reportedly sunk a bit more of himself into The Homesman, his latest directorial effort where he stars alongside Hilary Swank. It's earned some festival plaudits and will hit theaters in November. Reportedly, it pursues a much smaller and more patient demographic than Criminal.

Now, the question is, what does Jones' involvement in this film say about the material? Is this another paycheck gig (a large paycheck, one would assume) that allows Jones to go off and do smaller films? Or is this something really interesting? Costner and Oldman together with Jones is a curious trio and seeing them bounce off each other could be worth the price of admission. And hey, maybe this movie has ideas, things to say about the dividing line separating cop and criminal rich and poor, science and faith, something like that. A bit too early to say, considering Vromen's smaller profile (he directed the mob killer drama The Iceman). We'll find out soon.