Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent Cassel, Gary Oldman, Fares Fares
Rated R for Violence, Some Disturbing Images, Language and a Scene of Sexuality
There are good movies, like last year's masterful "Boyhood." There are bad movies, like this year's dud "Unfinished Business." And then there are movies like "Child 44," which make bad movies look good. The film may be top heavy with talent, but had any of them been using this as a way to break into stardom, they'd go back to waiting tables by the end of opening weekend. Fortunately, all of them have talent, and will survive this debacle because of this. Me? I'm not so sure. I have a rugby match tomorrow, so I'm hoping to get knocked around a bit in order to forget this monstrosity (if not, there's always the free beer after the game).
What's wrong with this movie? A better question is what's right, and the answer is almost nothing. The acting is almost uniformly terrible. The story makes almost no sense, with scenes going one way and going in another direction in the same sentence. The action scenes, and more than a few dramatic ones, are ruined by the fact that the cameraman and the editor were both jacked up on cocaine while attempting to do their jobs. The cinematography makes bad 3D look good. And not only does it fall victim to the notorious "Talking Killer" syndrome, the movie seems to never want to end. It's so bad, I almost wished I was watching "Belly." At least that movie had the virtue of occasionally looking good. Alas, I was stuck watching this piece of crap.
The film takes place in Stalin's Soviet Union. Leo Demidov (Hardy) is a hero of the Soviet Union after being photographed holding up the flag when the Soviets conquered Berlin in 1945. Now married to his wife Raisa (Rapace), he's a security officer in Moscow. One day, he starts investigating the death of a young boy found by the train tracks. He was clearly murdered, although his superior Major Kuzmin (Cassel) tells him to claim it was an accident because "Murder is a capitalist crime." Another officer, a snaky sort named Vasili (Kinnaman) accuses Raisa of being a traitor, and the two are sent to an out of the way town, and then...
By this time, I had given up. Hoping for any sort of a coherent plot, let alone one worth caring about, was something I came to realize was a lost cause. What really sucks is that, from what I could gather, the film could have worked with a defter touch. The film was produced by Ridley Scott, who was the original director. With him at the helm, this might have been a great movie. Sadly, we have Daniel Espinosa, who directed the high-energy but silly "Safe House" three years ago. That movie was dumb, but it was a masterpiece compared to this.
Complicated accents/voices are not Tom Hardy's forte. He can do English (his native accent) and American, but Southern and Russian are clearly not among his considerable strengths. Not only does it cause him to mumble his lines and detract from his performance, it makes his character flat-out irritating. Seriously, he's almost as bad as he was in "Lawless," where he spoke in the aforementioned Southern accent. And this is coming from a guy who has been a fan of his since he played Shinzon in "Star Trek: Nemisis" back in 2002.
His co-stars fare even worse. Apart from Hardy, the only one who has any significant screen time is Noomi Rapace, although her motivations for tagging along are muddled. Adding insult to injury, she appears to have forgotten how to act. Joel Kinnaman is perfectly sleazy when his Russian accent doesn't get in the way, and while Gary Oldman shows up in a supporting role, he's essentially a non-entity. Ditto for Jason Clarke, who, like in "The Great Gatsby," is in a highly publicized but ultimately thankless role. The only one who displays any life or talent is the always creepy Vincent Cassel, but he's on screen for all of five minutes...and that's spread all over the very long 2+ hours.
Apparently, this was on the Black List of best unproduced screenplays. Considering "Transcendence" was too, I'm guessing that those who judge them don't read them. This is an awful screenplay helmed by an awful director and results in a godawful movie.
Seriously, skip this movie. If any of my comments seem clever enough to make you want to see this movie in a campy mindset. trust me, it's not that kind of a movie.