It’s love on the run for Britney Spears in her new video for “Criminal,” in which real-life boyfriend Jason Trawick plays a bad-boy biker, on break from working the kitchen at a fancy party, when he witnesses Britney’s character being attacked by her controlling British escort (not that kind), comes to the rescue, and…you get the idea. Less Bonnie and Clyde than Thelma and Louise—or maybe even Aerosmith’s “Crazy”—the video follows the newly minted lovers and partners in crime as they rob at least one bank before getting cornered by the world’s most trigger-happy S.W.A.T. team. The two characters actually are way more committed to having sex than committing crimes (and we can respect that) but when Britney “borrows” her guy’s gun and pulls it on a convenience store cashier, they make the news fast.
Part of the reason the video works so well is director Chris Marrs Piliero. He and Britney share a comic sensibility that not only drove the madcap “I Wanna Go” video (their first collaboration) but also provides levity in this action-oriented video. The groin kick Britney gives her abusive date, Trawick’s mouthed “Oh s—” when he sees Britney pull the gun, and Britney’s wordless expression of more or less the same sentiment in the TV news still all point to one of Spears’s greatest talents: giving the impression that although she takes her career extremely seriously, she nevertheless doesn’t take it too seriously. The song might not quite be “Toxic” caliber, but its video is at least as entertaining a bad-girl adventure story, and her role here is essentially that of a (wait for it) femme fatale.