"Child 44" Is The Cure For Feeling Good Review

What’s more bleak than Stalin’s Soviet Union? How about a series of child murders in Stalin’s Soviet Union? Such is the premise of Child 44, an excessively long, incredibly dour but well-acted thriller starring Mad Max himself, Tom Hardy, alongside Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman and a host of other talented European (though, not Russian) thespians. Based on the award-winning novel by Tom Rob Smith, it follows Hardy’s Ministry of State Security (MGB) investigator Leo Demidov as he attempts to solve that aforementioned series of murders, despite the Soviet Union’s refusal to acknowledge the the acts are murder at all. Murder is a disease of the West, we are told, and “cannot happen in paradise.”

Leo rose from poor orphan to war hero to favored MGB agent, only to find his entire career swept out from under him when he refused to turn in his wife, Raisa (Rapace), who is a suspected traitor. It doesn’t help that Leo was disturbing the obsessively maintained peace of the Soviet police state by investigating the death of the son of a close friend; the boy’s body was found naked and mutilated near railroad tracks, and while the government declared it was an accident, Leo is much more suspicious. He and Raisa end up transported to the rural outpost of Volsk, where Leo must take a militia position under the watchful eye of General Nesterov (Oldman) and schoolteacher Raisa must work as a janitor. However, soon Leo discovers that another murder just like the one in Moscow has taken place here, and that more than 40 others have occurred all down the train line running to Rostov. With nothing left to lose, Leo sets out to catch this serial killer, despite having the MGB, led by the ambitious and cold-blooded agent Vasili Nikitin (Kinnaman), right on his tail.

Child 44 is nearly nonstop doom and gloom, from the gruesome subject matter to the murky cinematography to the sad food porn-gone-wrong close-ups of people chopping cabbage. The lone bright spot in the darkness is Hardy, who possesses the kind of race magnetism that will force you to keep watching the film, even as it teeters over the two-hour mark with one depressing scene after another. He gives a solid performance as Leo, rising above his cartoonish Russian accent and his tendency to punctuate half his statements with “Da?” despite still speaking English. In fact, the entire film is in English and, as mentioned previously, filled with actors attempting a wide range of fake Russian accents. Despite the enjoyable presence of Hardy, not to mention the equally charismatic but much more sinister Kinnaman, one wonders if the film would have been improved by the casting of some talented Russian actors and the use of some subtitles. However, it is pretty clear that even without the distracting accents, Child 44 would still be a disappointment. It’s a Cold War thriller that just never heats up.


The Blu-ray release of Child 44 includes a digital download of the film and a featurette.

"Child 44" is on sale August 4, 2015 and is rated R. Drama. Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Written by Richard Price. Starring Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Noomi Rapace, Tom Hardy.

Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 


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