Combustible Celluloid
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With: 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
Written by: Richard Price, based on a novel by Tom Rob Smith
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some disturbing images, language and a scene of sexuality
Running Time: 137
Date: 04/17/2015

Child 44 (2015)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Russia Grouse

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on Tom Rob Smith's novel, Child 44 is a thriller with no thrills. It's too long, too dreary, and too overly serious. It's supposed to feel like a period piece and set in another culture, but the by-the-numbers Russian-accented English-language dialogue and the sneering, one-dimensional bad guys make it seem more like a Hollywood dress-up party. It has no concept of place or time.

In the 1950s in Soviet Russia, Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) works as a secret police agent, looking for enemies of the state. The bodies of children are discovered, including the son of one of Leo's colleagues, but they are all written off as accidents, since a murderer on the loose in this "perfect" society would look bad. When Leo's wife, schoolteacher Raisa (Noomi Rapace), is named and Leo refuses to denounce her, they are both sent into exile. There, more dead children are found, and Leo begins working with General Mikhail Nesterov (Gary Oldman) to find the killer. Unfortunately, being out in the open puts Leo and Raisa at great risk.

Hardy's gorilla-like screen presence and variety-show Russian accent almost threaten to add a little fun to the proceedings, but director Daniel Espinosa squashes it before it has a chance. Likewise, Oldman is fine, but in an almost inconsequential role. Rapace struggles between her passive, feminine role, and a few fight scenes in which she punches back and breaks character. But no matter what else happens, the recurring images of dead, murdered children in a third-rate thriller like this put a huge damper on anything that might have been entertaining or informative.

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