CHILD 44 REVIEW

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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

LET’S BE COPS REVIEW

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Let’s Be Cops! Let’s not . . .

Until I’ve finishing this review. Ah ha! Anyway . . .

Nick and Original Pilot Coach from New Girl decide to be cops leading to an OTT but highly watchable action comedy. That’s what you get!

Some of the better bits are in the trailers and I feared that there would be little in between. However, it was all down to the partnership and chemistry of Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr that allowed jokes that really should have been mediocre and ridiculous, quite entertaining. Certain jokes still fall flat on their backside. An initial joke in which Justin (Wayans Jr) tells a line of apprehended Russian mobsters to put their hands on their heads and body pop started off funny but went on too long. Facebook selfies with rifles. Silly but okay.

I guess it’s down to what mood you’re in. If you think the premise is ridiculous then do not bother. It’s get a whole lot crazier and a whole lot sillier. But if you’re up for that then bienvenue, wilkommen, welcome!

Most of the heavily advertised funny bits in the trailers were done in the first 20 minutes. Although funny, if you’ve been unlucky to see them numerous times it’s highly predictable. I’m worried that Johnson may be typecast into playing Nick now for the rest of his acting career. I hope I’m wrong. It works this time round even if his character is a little more demented. The guy practices knife combat training with a kid he met in the park. Crazy. His impulsive EBay purchase of an old police vehicle and combat education from YouTube videos was too scary a concept with this day and age.

The plot is hardly original. Two thirty year old slackers that are either frustrated with work (or not working at all) get given an opportunity to be somebody (well pretend to be somebody), inevitably leading to hi-jinks and upsetting the Russian mob. James D’Arcy (Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World) didn’t do too badly as the Russian psychopath. He had the acting conviction but not the body to pull it off. It was hard to be intimidated by his scrawny demeanour. But at the same time, with the tank sized henchmen at his disposal, does he need to bulk up?

The supporting cast certainly do help make this film work. An unrecognisable Keegan-Michael Key (Fargo) played the highly agitated and crazy drug peddler Pupa to perfection, delivering the gags where the pace seemed to dip. Nick (Johnson), I mean Ryan’s interpretation of waterboarding Pupa for information was hilarious. Natasha Leggero’s (Suburgatory) crazy cougar cameo wowewewow. For others, they may find her irritating and stupid but me . . . and Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) oh my goodness.

Okay, I’ll stop. Wayans Jr and Dobrev play the inevitable couple subplot spiel as well as they can. But it’s still corny and predictable as hell. I was surprised to see Rob Riggle playing it straight faced for a change. Especially after his hilarious supporting turns in 22 Jump Street and Step Brothers. However, it works so much better. And Andy Garcia, where you been? Great to see him back in movies and poking fun at himself. Even if he plays it incredibly straight faced. I think he was the only person doing some proper “acting” acting.

Johnson and Wayans Jr work well together. Their characters will hardly top the action comedy duos of all time but they certainly help make this film more enjoyable than it should be for all its clichéd and OTT guff. They can make as many Lethal Weapon references as they want but Riggs and Murtaugh they ain’t. Wayans Jr was definitely the scene stealer for me. He does his father proud, following his style but is still able to put his own stamp on it. It’s corny, predictable, OTT but it’s not the worst way to kill 100 minutes and it delivered more laughs than I expected. However, the best cop com movie for me is still 22 Jump Street, which this one falls short of. But NOT BAD.

For me, it’s a 3/5.