CHILD 44 (USA | UK | Czech Republic | Romania/16/137mins)
Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joel Kinnaman, Noomi Rapace, Jason Clarke, Paddy Considine.

THE PLOT: In Soviet Russia, under the rule of Stalin, children are going missing, and turning up murdered. Since the government insists that Soviet Russia is paradise, and there can be no murder in paradise, disgraced military police officer Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of the murders.

THE VERDICT: On the surface, it seems like CHILD 44 has a decent plot for a thriller; and the cast made up of Hardy, Oldman, Kinnaman, Rapace and Considine only serves to further the idea that the film is not a silly film full of unnecessary plot and chewy accents. Sadly, this is not the case.

Hardy carries the film well enough but, like his turn as Bane in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, his accent is chewy and over the top, and often intelligible… which doesn’t help matters. Rapace is fine as Leo’s manipulative wife Raisa, Charles Dance has a small role towards the end of the film, and Gary Oldman is a delight as the imposing General Mikhail Nesterov… Mostly because he gets to shout at Tom Hardy a lot, and who doesn’t enjoy Gary Oldman shouting!? Paddy Considine is woefully miscast as Vladimir Malevich, since he looks more like a Northern English schoolteacher than a Russian factory worker.

Screenwriter Richard Price, who has written for THE WIRE and, oddly, the video for Michael Jackson’s Bad, adapts Tom Rob Smith’s novel for the screen. It seems there is a lot going on in the novel, and none of this was cut for the sake of making the movie version of the story. As such, subplots that have little bearing on the title of the film take over for much of the running time, leaving the murder plot to be ignored for over an hour of the film’s 137 minute running time, before having it solved in a matter of moments.

Director Daniel Espinosa, whose 2010 film EASY MONEY is a terrific thriller, fails to keep CHILD 44 moving or interesting, leaving the film to get caught up in its own tangled subplots, subplots which it never fully escapes. This in turn means that actors like Oldman, Kinnaman and Considine are never truly given their moment in the spotlight, and end up feeling miscast or underused.

In all, CHILD 44 is a silly film about a silly story. All too easily, the film gets caught up in subplots that don’t actually matter, leaving the main story to fall by the wayside. Some of the accents in the film are utterly chewy and great actors are never given a chance to shine on screen. A missed opportunity indeed.


Review by Brogen Hayes

Child 44
Review by Brogen Hayes
0.5A missed opportunity
  • filmbuff2011

    Russia-set Child 44 is one of those historical thrillers that sounds interesting at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that it leaves a lot to be desired. After marching on the Reichstag in 1945, Leo (Tom Hardy) becomes a war hero to his comrades in post-war Russia. Fast forward to 1953 and the Cold War is in full swing. Stalin declares that murder is strictly a capitalist crime and that there’s no murder in paradise (well, he would know wouldn’t he?). A series of grisly child murders occurs that spreads to the countryside. There’s more than several child murders involved, as Leo discovers when he teams up with local General Nesterov (Gary Oldman). Besides trying to solve these horrific child murders in a country that doesn’t believe in murder, he also has to contend with pressure on his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace), who is suspected of being a spy. Suspicion soon becomes murderous intent… Based on the book by Tom Rob Smith, this is a fictional story inspired by true events in Cold War Russia. Something has been lost in the translation though. Maybe it’s seeing so many familiar European actors putting on their best (and not so best) Russian accents as if they were making a new version of War And Peace. Everyone is so serious and grim. It’s not enough to say that the child murder plot is responsible for that, as it’s really just a sub-plot. Even the reveal of the killer is done in an non-dramatic and underhanded way. Most of the film is made up of Leo wrestling with his conscience and trying to protect Raisa. At least Hardy is incapable of giving a bad performance. It’s fascinating to watch him play off Oldman, as they’re both chameleons when it comes to acting. It’s a shame that they don’t have more scenes together, as they could have been the heart of the film and driven it forward with more conviction. By the time the film reaches its muddy (in more ways than one) conclusion, this reviewer was past caring. Other viewers walked out in the last few minutes, obviously not caring enough to see how the story ends. Director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) gets the period detail and most of the acting right, but that’s not enough to save an uninvolving and turgid story. Don’t play Russian roulette on this one. Child 44 is just dull. **