Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review: Child 44

Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
Simultaneously a Stalin-era political drama and a serial killer thriller, Daniel Espinosa's "Child 44" may have too much going on at once, but the picture is better than you may have heard.

In the film, Tom Hardy plays Leo Demidov, a military inspector whose job involves seeking out those who speak out against the state and arresting them. The film is set in 1953 and most of the characters live in constant fear that they will be named, which would then force them to denounce others or risk being executed.

Leo is married to Raisa (Noomi Rapace), whom he obviously adores, but there appears to be something off about their marriage. His commanding officer is the stern Major Kuzmin (Vincent Cassel) and he has a nemesis, Vasili (Joel Kinnaman), who is jealous of his position, which will obviously not bode well as the story unfolds.

The first third of the film is primarily concerned with the aforementioned plot mechanics. But a little ways into the story, it shifts gears after a series of children are found brutally tortured and murdered along railroad tracks, stretching from Moscow to the countryside. "Child 44" opens with a quote - "There are no murders in paradise." Leo, who wants to investigate the child homicides, is repeatedly told by his bosses that murder only occurs in capitalist societies and they try to rationalize the situation as a series of unfortunate events.

After Leo's brother's son is found dead and our hero and his wife are shipped off to a remote location after they are denounced, more dead bodies begin to be found sprawled along the tracks. Leo, working with a local inspector named Nesterov (Gary Oldman), takes the case on himself and the second half of "Child 44" becomes a serial killer procedural.

Even though these various plotlines occasionally get in the way of one another and some members of the cast haven't quite perfected their Russian accents, "Child 44" is always pretty engrossing. Hardy has long been a star on the rise and he carries the film as the troubled Demidov.

The reviews for the film have, for the most part, not been very kind. But this is an instance of a film that, despite its flaws, is a solid - although pretty bleak - entertainment.

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