‘Criminal Network’ (2023) Ending, Explained: Was Ryan Actually Dead?

Criminal Network, the new film by Adam Starks, stars him alongside Joshua Copeland, Keiran Donnelly, and Beandan O’Connor. The film revolves around the story of two brothers, James and Ryan, who find themselves in trouble after getting mixed up in the proceedings of a secret criminal organization. The younger one, Ryan, a nihilistic soul, has grown indifferent to the world after losing his investments and failing to complete his degree at the university. His elder brother James is the saner one of the two, but when Ryan tells him about a new job paying a hefty sum of money, he doesn’t decline. It almost gets too late before he discovers that the job is related to the operations of an underground criminal organization, and he has to run around London to save Ryan, who has gone missing.

Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘Criminal Network’?

The streets of London are swarming with traffic. Sirens go off, with the cop cars out on the main roads. A man keeps running, hiding himself from the police radar. A criminal on the loose? Perhaps. He evades the police for a while but is ultimately caught by a constable, but a team of suit-clad intelligence officers is ready to intercept this arrest. They take him inside a nearby building and begin their interrogation. They broke the awful news to him that his younger brother, Ryan, had died. It was James who was running around the whole city, but he could only grieve for his brother now.


Who Were James And Ryan?

The intelligence officer consoles James but demands to know every detail he knows about Ryan and his involvement with any criminal organization. James begins telling his story. It all started two years ago when Ryan and James were at university. Ryan was a loner who only talked to his professor, a man by the name of Simmons, and if he needed someone else to call, only then would he call James. Ryan was an extremely smart young man, but luck had not favored him in a long while, which is why he had grown jaded and disappointed. Ryan and James had come into some inheritance money and split it up. James paid the university fees all at once and borrowed more from Ryan’s sum after he multiplied it through numerous investments. But suddenly, the investments fell through, and Ryan was left penniless. He depended on that amount to finish university as he was paying the fees in installments, investing the rest of the amount. Now that he had lost the amount and knew James had already spent the borrowed sum, he had no choice but to drop out. He resented his elder brother for the entire thing. Had he not spent the amount he had borrowed, Ryan could have paid for his final semester.

With no money, Ryan was left without a place to stay. James sustained himself through his odd jobs. Ryan met with Professor Simmons, probably for the last time. While in university, Ryan was Simmons’ favorite, and seeing him leave so abruptly really surprised him. Ryan was feeling betrayed by the world. Hard work, intelligence, and diligence were only mere words for him, bearing no relevance when it came to what life had in store. He had worked hard and sharpened his mind, but what had he gotten in return? He was broke and homeless.

James received a phone call from him one day asking him to help out with a job. Having blown away the fortune, James thought the least he could do was help his younger brother out. He could use some of the money as well, but the job seems a bit odd for him. Basically, he had to keep an eye out for the police while Ryan went into the abandoned underground tunnels to click photographs and send them to an unknown man by the name of Mr. Black. On their first outing, Ryan almost died when a leaking cylinder in the tunnel exploded, and he had to crawl out of the tunnel and climb his way to an active railway bridge. In all the chaos, Ryan didn’t realize that he had dropped his wallet in the tunnel, which was picked up by an unknown man.

When he meets James on the other side, he answers all the questions that are weighing heavy on his mind. Who was Ryan working for exactly, and why was James looking out for the police? Ryan explains that although he began with innocuous jobs for Mr. Black, he was now being sent in those tunnels to click photos of operations related to the smuggling of drugs and weapons, which is why Ryan had asked James to keep an eye out for the police. Ryan was to get small sums for each job and a hefty sum after he completed the final assignment. Ryan hasn’t been involved in any criminal stuff himself, but trying to click photos of drugs and guns was sure to leave a bad impression on the police and is a bit too difficult to explain. The next time Ryan goes into one such tunnel, he realizes what a bad idea it was to work for his strange employer, Mr. Black. He finds the corpse of a young woman in a body bag while Mr. Black pressures him to send her photographs.


Who Is The Dead Woman?

While James and Ryan were busy figuring out a way to sustain themselves, a dangerous man was negotiating with a young woman about the sale of her underground property, which would be used by the man’s employer for his shady operations. The young woman negotiated a little too harshly, not budging even in the face of danger. She disrespected the menacing man and paid with her life. Ryan was knee-deep into something extremely sinister. He didn’t expect he would one day have to discover a dead body and be asked to click its photograph. He must have cursed the moment he stole a car and crashed it, which is when he was trapped into do these shady jobs for Mr. Black. Ryan discusses the implications of working for him any further with James and decides to call it quits. No more tunnels and no more photographs. Back at his apartment, however, he receives a call from an unknown number.


Who Is On The Other End Of The Line?

Ryan is phoned in by his old professor, Simmons, who seems to be the mastermind behind the criminal organization. He scolds him for running away from him even after he helped him so much in the university. Ryan was his favorite student, and yet he did not respect his guidance. He did participate in the “game”: the game of becoming wealthy and powerful using the underground criminal network.

Ryan is overwhelmed to find out that Professor Simmons was the one pulling all the strings. Simmons warns Ryan that he isn’t done with him and that escaping from his grip isn’t as easy as he might have thought. The following day, James finds Ryan missing, and he receives a call from Professor Simmons. He toys with him and asks him to solve riddles to catch the cab that would take him to Ryan. Failure to do that would result in Ryan’s death, who was kept caged in Simmons’ basement. James tried hard and kept playing Simmons’ games. He even became a police suspect after announcing the presence of a bomb in Victoria Station. He runs continuously but is ultimately caught by the intelligence agents, unable to catch the cab.


‘Criminal Network’ Ending Explained – Was Ryan Actually Dead?

Ryan, caged in the basement, could hear the conversation between Simmons and James. He hears James running constantly to save him. He realized that Simmons was just playing with James and would never allow him to catch the cab, and even if he did, psychopathic Simmons would simply kill both brothers. Even after being heavily sedated, he tries to muster up the willpower to get out of the cage and succeeds. He confronts Simmons but doesn’t kill him. He agrees to play a final game with him: Russian Roulette. 1 bullet in any one of the gun’s six chambers. Ryan proceeds first and pulls the trigger, one after the other, risking his life a full five times. Simmons, for the first time, reveals his true identity, that of a weak and frail man who had just lost in front of the young and courageous Ryan. The sixth chamber was now guaranteed to contain the bullet. Ryan shoots Simmons in the shoulders, making sure he doesn’t die and only suffer a great deal.

Back at the interrogation, the intelligence agent reveals to James that “Mr. Black,” for whom Ryan worked, was another intelligence officer and proceeded to give James the hefty sum of money that was promised to Ryan for helping the agents bust Simmons’ criminal network. James realizes that it was these intelligence officers who were behind Ryan’s loss of investment. They simply wanted to use him to get to Professor Simmons, and so they created a scenario where Ryan would be compelled to work for them. James takes the money and walks away, reuniting with Ryan, who has finally freed himself from Simmons’ grip.


Criminal Network is a 2023 crime drama film directed by Adam Starks.

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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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