CHILD 44 REVIEW

child-44

Tipped to be the biggest flop of 2015. An unjustified tag line may be undeserved but this clunky affair still leaves a lot to be desired.

A disgraced member of the military police (Hardy) investigates a series of nasty child murders during the Stalin-era Soviet Union.

Tom Hardy was superb. A powerhouse performance. He carried the film and was the only actor to deliver a convincing accent and keep in character.

The opening 30 minutes zipped along. If anything a little too quickly. We watch Hardy’s Leo Demidov climbing through the ranks from an orphan on the run to a decorated war veteran.

I expected more of a relationship between Hardy and Mark Lewis Jones’ Tortoise (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) but it didn’t really surmount to anything. He takes Leo in as a surrogate son but as soon as we are caught up to date, his character is pushed into the background. A shame.

Joel Kinnaman was actually quite impressive. He played the green eyed Vasili very well. A coward forever lurking in Leo’s shadow. A nutter hell bent on taking his anger on those beneath him.

His punishment on a family of farmers for hiding a suspected fugitive was relentless. However, there was a highly comical and OTT cornfield punch up between Hardy and Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of The Apes) that killed the tension and suspense.

BUT an interesting development soon put things on the right track as Leo’s wife (Noomi Rapace) is accused of giving secrets to the British embassy.

For the first hour, I kept thinking to myself; “Where does the child killer story come into this?” It felt like a different film. Two story lines meshed into one and neither really came off.

I was more interested in Leo’s exile after refusing to give up his wife. Noomi Rapace and Hardy reunite yet again after their pairing in The Drop. They had good chemistry and certainly kept things watchable.

The exile sequence was compelling. I was happy to see more of that factory town situation. Leo reduced to the equivalent of a PCSO. While Rapace’s Raisa, a fully qualified teacher, is purposely made a cleaner at the school.

I was intrigued with the Stalin ideology that was enforced in the 50s. “There is no murder in paradise”. The deluded belief that no one kills in Soviet Russia was baffling. Those who opposed any ideals were removed either temporarily to these slum towns or permanently.

The child killer subplot finally arrives and it was interesting (To begin with). The killer sneaking around the tracks like Jack the Ripper. A cloak and cane being the only things we see as each child is picked off one by one. BUT it soon became a mindless walk through with terrible red herrings. It was sloppily put together and didn’t fit in.

The spluttering pace did test me. At a whopping 137 minutes, the film dragged. It seemed to be a case of all or nothing. In one scene we have an exhilarating escape attempt on a train as the couple evade capture. The next; mindless exposition. Boring forensic information delivered with no conviction or interest.

The killer is revealed to the audience too early on which kills any tension. And when we finally get the answers, I was left wanting. The film suggested that there was a bigger conspiracy at play with Leo being stopped at every possible opportunity. Was the killer within their own ranks? Oh no.

The conspiracy was that Vasili wanted Leo’s position and was jealous that his wife was not with him instead. That’s it. Leo had so many opportunities to dispose of Vasili and he refused. By the end, you were yelling, “Get rid!”. Foolish.

Gary Oldman didn’t make much of an impression at all. A talented actor reduced to an unmemorable role. He also seemed to forget he was Russian. His accent dipping in and out. It didn’t help that his character was built up to be a crucial figure in the case. But he was non-existent. Merely threatening Leo to stay out of his way and then allowing to do as he pleased.

While Leo was pursuing the killer, Oldman’s General Nesterov was just consoling the grieving families. And then he disappeared. Only popping back up in the closing credits to explain what he did after this daunting case. Not a lot afterwards, either. A waste of an actor.

I had to agree with someone that said the cast were doing their best Borat impressions. It was incredibly off-putting. But that’s Hollywood for you. Fares Fares (Zero Dark Thirty) was the biggest culprit. Terrible. Paddy Considine did as well as he could with the role but he didn’t really get to shine until the closing act.

After a lumbering middle act, the last 20 minutes was suspenseful, intense and ridiculously violent. Hardy goes through more soldiers than Rambo. His mud wrestling battle with a foe was unbelievably hilarious.

And as the film came to its abrupt close, there were plot points that just left me scratching my head. People being bumped off left, right and centre and without any real explanation or reason.

A wasted opportunity. When I last checked the box office records, Child 44 had taken $600,000 a $35 million budget.

A little harsh. It wasn’t all bad. But they took a gamble with a huge ensemble that didn’t deliver with a premise that was half baked. And penciling it in during the Avengers release was a big mistake.

Clunky, overlong, hammy. This may have been adapted from a best selling novel but I’m not certainly venturing out to my local book shop to purchase a copy.

The cons outweighed the suspenseful action sequences and charisma of the talented Mr Hardy.

2.5/5

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