Criminal Activities starts out pretty decent and then loses a lot of steam and energy to then slap you in the face and wake your right up.
After 20 minutes or so I was already losing interest and was under the impression I could predict the outcome. Then in one scene halfway through it dawned on me that not everything is as it seems. While this did add some spice to the film from the way the events played out I had a pretty good idea how things were going to play out. And I was right for 70 percent. The other 30 percent caught me by surprise since it added some nice details that transcended an average crime drama into a much better one. Had it not been for that last act I would have obliterated this film especially since I would expect more from Jackie Earle Haley. I know that a first time directing is different from acting but if someone is in the business as long as he had then you bound to pick up a few things here and there. Despite me liking this and appreciating it a little better I do think that Haley still needs to work on characterization. My guess was he was so focused on the plot that he forgot that you have to add more colour to the characters and give them more of a personality. Meaning they should interact more on different levels than just yelling and cursing. Although the plot explains why the four friends are not as tight.
That being said I do think that the whole cast did their best with what they are given. But especially Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire) and Dan Stevens (Downtown Abbey) do an excellent job of keeping things interesting as much as they could. John Travolta and Jackie Earle Haley for obvious reasons are only there to give this film a little weight and credibility and in hindsight is sufficient.
So would I recommend this film? Honestly I can think of a couple of other films in the genre that do a much better job into tricking you but without losing it's energy and strength. The closest I can think has to be Suicide Kings. But also have to mention Made Men (1999 starring James Belushi) probably one of the most underrated crime thrillers ever. I would not recommend this film but I would also not speak out against this. No matter how flawed this film does offer a nice morale to ponder about and it could spark some debate. Whether that is done on purpose or just to justify the plot is not that interesting. It's in there and does improve the film. If you stick till the end then I do think you won't feel like you have wasted your time.