Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writer: Richard Price
Cast: Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace
AGE RESTRICTION: [R]
It’s dark and moody, but it’s not too gory or graphic.
Child 44 is a good film. It’s a bit all over the place and tries to be too many things all at the same time. But it’s a good, interesting, drama-serial killer-love story-historic-spy-noir-flik.
Leo is a policeman in Soviet Russia in the 1950s. A decorated war hero he enjoys all the luxuries of the privileged few. But there’s something rotten in the state of socialist communism, and the sinister tendrils of despair are slowly fastening a death grip around Leo’s perfect life. When his friend’s son is killed, and Leo makes the mistake of wanting to investigate the murder, the vice starts to tighten. The simplest and purest intentions quickly lead to the systematic destruction of Leo’s entire life. But no matter where they send him, or what they do to him, Leo will stop at nothing to find the man who is killing children, and stop him.
Child 44 is based on a book by Tom Rob Smith. And whereas in a book one can tell a story that delves into a plethora of themes, subjects and genres, films are generally better suited to a more singular focus. Child 44 tries to examine too many things. Soviet Socialist corruption and brutality, the truths and lies of a marriage built on illusion, one man’s struggle for integrity in an evil world, nail biting suspense and intrigue, the dark fires that burn in tortured men’s souls. Each on it’s own would be a fascinating story. Two or three combined would make a great film. All of them together end up washing into each other and muddying the narrative waters to the point where the film is almost too lost in its own complexity to allow the audience in. I say almost, I enjoyed the film, I recommend it, but it’s dangerously close to falling into the trap of having too much narrative and too little story.
Leo, the lead character, is played by Tom Hardy. I frikken love Tom Hardy. I named my snake after Tom Hardy, literally. In my eyes he can do no wrong. And in Child 44 he doesn’t disappoint. The film is not as powerful a vehicle for his talents as others he’s chosen like Bronson, Locke, Warrior, The Dark Knight or ,hopefully, the upcoming Mad Max Fury Road. But he shines in the role and brings his usual mix of broody intensity and verisimilituic realism to the role. He is supported by a fantastic cast. The peripheral characters in the film are all fairly flimsy and half formed. But the like of Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman and Jason Clarke manage to breathe life and sympathy into them.
Directing and writing
The film is well handled by Daniel Espinosa. It has a solid pace, good character development and paints a fascinating picture of a dark and scary time and place in history. Despite it’s too epic reach Espinoza manages to keep the film rooted in the interpersonal relationships between the characters, where all good films live and die. Despite its flaws it remains an engrossing tale of good and evil, right and wrong, and the struggle of a lone man against a world set on destroying him.
See it. Enjoy it. Turn a blind eye to its failings and revel in its strengths.
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