Directed by Jackie Earle Haley, "Criminal Activities" from 2015 is about four high school friends - Zack, Noah, Warren, and Bryce (Michael Pitt, Dan Stevens, Rob Brown, Christopher Abbott, who meet up after the funeral of their friend Matthew. Warren tells them about a stock that's about to go up - he has insider trading info - and the agent who has been stockpiling the stock is getting nervous about being caught and needs to dump his shares. He wants $200,000. Noah says he can get it.
The stock tanks and wipes out the investment. Unfortunately, Noah neglected to tell him the money came from a mobster, Eddie (John Travolta) and he wants repayment of $400,000 - accrued interest. He will wipe the slate clean if they will help him with a problem he's having - kidnap the brother of the man who kidnapped his niece so that he can get her back.
Boy could this have been better. It's a complicated story, and a good one, but the script and direction aren't strong enough to carry it. It's similar to many other films of today with its surprises, but at the end of the film I was left confused about certain money issues. There is an homage to Pulp Fiction with the presence of Travolta and the guys' initial meeting at the Royale. And it has gross violence, just like Tarantino. It's just not Tarantino.
The acting is uneven with some good performances. Travolta does a great job, but earth to Travolta: if you're bald, shave your head and/or wear an expensive hairpiece, and stop looking like a chimpanzee with that hairline. It's so distracting.
The director, Jackie Earle Haley, hands in a good performance, as do Pitt, Edi Gathegi, Pitt, and Stevens.