Do a Shot: for each “unique” Russian accent.
Do a Shot: whenever a different character actor pops up.
Take a Drink: for each great shot.
Take a Drink: during each dull moment.
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
Continuing to build up his name as one of the industry’s best is Tom Hardy, who has always been involved with interesting projects. Hardy has an odd yet appealing mix of a sort of macho-man imagination along with a great deal of charm and humanity. With this charm in his back pocket, Hardy has been able to truly thrive in quite a few roles. This was especially the case last year, as both Locke and The Drop featured Hardy as the leading man giving two of the year’s best performances.
With Hardy taking a lot of chances, there have been a few noticeable misses. While some enjoyed the scale and ambition of The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy’s performance as Bane lacked the grit to make the character truly be someone to fear. Other films such as Lawless and This Means War feature a good effort by Hardy, wasted in largely misguided projects. Sadly, the same can be said about Hardy’s latest flick Child 44, which was never able to find its groove.
Child 44 follows Leo, a disgraced member of the military police force in the Stalin-era Soviet Union who begins investigating the gristly murders of several children.
As one would expect from an A-list cast like this, the performances are quite good. Tom Hardy, even in a film that is not very good, always gives a great effort; and he continues to do great work here. As Leo, Hardy has a real sense of presence in each scene he is in, and actually does a decent job with his Russian accent. He continues to bring that great mixture of humanity with his tough-guy look, which is what the character needs here.
The supporting players also do solid work in the film. Noomi Rapace truly has become one of the more underrated actresses in the industry, and does a great job here. Rapace and Hardy both have great chemistry together as husband and wife, and their dynamic is one of the better parts of the film. Both Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke also do excellent jobs in their smaller roles.
As far as production goes, Child 44 utilized its budget very well. The film was shot in several Eastern Europe locales, with each feeling accurate to the setting and the mood the film was aiming for. Small details, like the uniforms characters wear to the houses, are all accurate to the Stalin-era Soviet Union time period, which is a nice touch to see. Child 44 also looks quite good, with veteran cinematographer Oliver Wood capturing the landscape with visual panache.
Perhaps the best aspect of Child 44 is the sense of paranoia it is able to build. Director Daniel Espinosa really is able to capture the sense of fear that people had during Stalin’s tenure, which creates overarching tension throughout most of the film.
As far as pacing goes, Child 44 feels endless in its entirety. The film is about two and a half hours long, which becomes exhausting considering how heavy this material is. With there being so many moments that go nowhere, it seems like the film could have easily been edited down, cutting as much as half an hour from the film’s final running time. By the time Child 44 ended, I felt like I needed a nap.
While most of the supporting cast does a good job, there are a few noticeable weak links. Joel Kinnaman continues to be one of the most bland actors in the business. He has the most noticeably bad Russian accent, and his character fails to ever truly feel as intimidating as he should.
With the film’s bloated running time comes a unsurprisingly bloated screenplay. Written by Richard Price, who last worked on the generic actioner The Cold Light of Day, the script often gets sidetracked from its main storyline with unnecessary sideplots. Almost all of these sideplots just feel like a distraction from the main plotline, with none of them being as fleshed out as they should be.
A lot of elements in Child 44 in general feel extremely underdeveloped. The idea of setting a thriller in the height of the Stalin Era’s paranoia with the Cold War beginning is a neat one, but that concept in general just feels like it’s wasted on what turns out to be a rather routine thriller. The film certainly had chances to develop ideals that are thought-provoking, but instead settles by doing the bare minimum.
Child 44’s cardinal sin is how much it blunders the solid source material it’s based off of. Written by Tom Rob Smith, the novel not only addresses bigger political ideals that the film negates, but is also a lot smoother and more organized. This film adaptation adds a glutenous amount of new stuff, such as a new ending and various subplots, but none of these changes are for the better.
For anyone who argues that the book is always better than the movie, Child 44 is the perfect example of such. Despite featuring a talented cast and great production values, the film is overall muddled and extremely dull. Just read the book instead.