A disgraced member of the military police investigates a series of nasty child murders during the Stalin-era Soviet Union.
‘Child 44’ is a plodding thriller set in communist Russia that follows the attempts of a Russian war hero, Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy), to solve a series of child murders amidst a state that doesn’t believe in the concept of murder. The film is dull, dark and utterly fails at turning a potentially gripping exploration of life in a communist state into anything approaching compelling. A film about child murder isn’t likely to present many opportunities for humour, but the lack of levity in proceedings makes it difficult to relate to any of the characters, with the experience of being submerged in darkness for more than 2 hours less than appealing. Director Daniel Espinosa’s previous film was ‘Safe House’, a film with an excellent trailer that proved to be a big disappointment on release, and ‘Child 44’ is equally unsatisfying.
The film attempts to tell dual stories about a child murderer on the loose and the plight of our protagonist, Leo, who is banished in disgrace from his role as a State Security Agent when he refuses to believe that the death of his friend’s son was an accident. When his superior (Vincent Cassel) gives him a task that would require him to turn on his lover (Noomi Rapace), Leo refuses and is subsequently sent away from Moscow. The focus is firmly on Leo throughout and whilst Tom Hardy’s overall performance is solid, he is one of many members of the cast to struggle with the accent. That brings me on to arguably the biggest issue with the film, that of the extremely heavy, thick Russian accents that the entire cast speak in throughout. Espinosa has gathered a stellar cast for the film, made up of names from across the globe (ironically none from Russia as far as I could tell) and then smothers their performances with some of the worst accents I’ve heard in some time. Joel Kinnaman and Noomi Rapace (both Swedish) fare the best and just about master the heavy brogue, but some of the others seem to vary between the thick Russian accent and their natural voice from scene to scene, and it’s incredibly distracting.
Looking beyond that, there’s still a potentially thrilling story to tell here (and given the success of the novel it’s based on, I’m comfortable saying that), but Richard Price’s script removes all of the thrills and there is little to enjoy throughout the film’s runtime. The aspects that should carry the film such as the detective process or the themes around life in a communist state fail to develop in interesting ways and we’re left with a cast of characters sulking around the depressing setting – accurate perhaps, but not particularly watchable. Overall, ‘Child 44’ is a disappointing misfire that mires a stellar cast in dreadful accents and a plot that never develops as intriguingly as its premise would suggest.
Directed By: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent Cassel, Paddy Considine, Jason Clarke, Charles Dance, Josef Altin, Sam Spruell, Ned Dennehy and Fares Fares