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Child 44


Stars: Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Fares Fares, Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassel, Mark Lewis Jones, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Charles Dance, Tara Fitzgerald, Josef Altin, Sam Spruell, Finbar Lynch, Ned Dennehy, Agnieszka Grochowska, Heather Craney

Director: Daniel Espinosa

The most terrifying aspect of this mostly morbid and rather too often narratively confusing thriller is the fact that there could be two sequels since the film is based on the first in Tom Rob Smith’s best-selling trilogy.

Hopefully this misfire should abort any idea of a sequel.

An opening credit cynically tells us, “There is no murder in paradise”.

Wrong, in two key aspects:

Firstly a series of brutal murders of young boys is a core element of the story. And secondly, Soviet Russia, under the despotic rule of Josef Stalin in 1953 hardly qualifies as ‘paradise’ on any level (except, perhaps, Stalin’s).

When secret policeman Tom Hardy refuses to denounce his wife (Noomi Rapace) as a traitor, he loses his power and status in Moscow and is dispatched to a depressing provincial outpost. Hardy and his wife then ally themselves with General Gary Oldman to hunt down the serial killer…

The broody plot thickens when they become dangerously ensnared in a corrupt system-wide cover-up and come up against psychopathic official Joel Kinnaman…

While there is plenty of story to go around, director Daniel Espinosa, unfortunately armed with Richard Price’s overwrought screenplay which attempts to blend political commend with crime, fails to make it grip.

Some scenes (but too few) - hit hard, notably Hardy being subjected to the brutal horrors of interrogation employing an injected truth drug. But well before the end, tedium had set in. The narrative wanders all over the place, often being over-directed and acted to match and, despite Oliver Wood’s atmospheric cinematography and well-used Czech locations, the result is far from convincing.

The decision to have the English actors – led by Hardy, Oldman, Paddy Considine and Charles Dance - deploy stagey ‘foreign accents’ hardly helps either. Genuine Continental actors in the cast, including Rapace and Vincent Cassel, simply underline this mistake.

Alan Frank

USA/UK/Czech Republic/Romania 2015. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne. Colour.
137 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 16 Apr 2015