UK Release Date: 17th April 2015
Runtime: 137 minutes
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writer: Richard Price
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Jason Clarke, Paddy Considine, Vincent Cassel
Synopsis: A former member of the Soviet military police alienates himself from the regime when he opts to investigate a string of child murders.
Tom Hardy certainly cannot be accused of opting for safe roles. He spent 2013 as a Welsh concrete worker in Locke and is currently lighting up cinema screens as Aussie marauder Mad Max. In between all of that, though, he found time to play a 1950s Russian police officer in baffling thriller Child 44.
Leo Demidov (Hardy) finds himself expelled from the Soviet military police when he refuses to denounce his wife (Noomi Rapace) as a traitor. Exiled under the care of General Nesterov (Gary Oldman), Demidov begins to investigate a series of shocking child murders, despite repeated claims from the regime that murder doesn’t happen in the Communist paradise of the Soviet Union.
Right from the start, Child 44 marks itself out as a very peculiar thriller. The cast is packed to bursting with A-list Hollywood stars, led by the always impressive Hardy, boasting the thickest Russian accents ever committed to the big screen. There are multiple storylines battling for the movie’s focus as Hardy’s character rises and falls within the Soviet military whilst a string of grisly child murders present a far more interesting narrative.
| "Another child could die at any moment."
Given that Child 44 is based on a bestselling novel, the competing storylines have clearly been lifted from the text. A novel has the necessary breathing room for all of these different arcs, but the film version is in desperate need of some sort of narrative streamlining. At well over two hours, it certainly outstays its welcome and becomes a real slog during its hopelessly bloated and uninteresting second act.
Hardy is solid, but he is hamstrung by the demands of the almost parodically thick accent. This is something that afflicts the rest of the cast, who approach the dialogue with varying degrees of commitment. Even Noomi Rapace – who was born relatively nearby in Sweden – sounds as if she’s talking in something that’s merely an approximation of a dialect she once heard. All of the performances are strong, but the accents do far more harm than good.
The main issue with Child 44 though is that it is almost completely inert. The story is never engaging enough to sustain the exceptionally bloated running time and Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) struggles to bring any impact from the director’s chair. Scenes of hand-t0-hand combat are directed with a camera so shaky it would make Paul Greengrass wince and the sound mixing simply turns the dial up in lieu of any emotional punch.
| "Murder is strictly a capitalist disease."
Child 44 is a mystery thriller that is conspicuously short on both mystery and thrills. The action has no momentum and the identity of the killer is delivered in the most anticlimactic fashion possible. With the calibre of performers involved, this really should have been more than just a Soviet snoozefest.
Pop or Poop?
Hamstrung by the bizarre decision to have A-list performers butchering their dialogue with odd accents, Child 44 is a ponderous, glacial thriller that runs far too long.
Dumped by the studio and buried at the box office, its only fate is to eventually become a really difficult pub quiz question.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.