On paper Child 44 is an absolute corker: Ridley Scott producing a 1950s-set Soviet serial killer movie starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Vincent Cassel, Jason Clarke, Joel Kinnaman and Charles Dance. The reality of the situation is very different and Daniel Espinosa’s adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s novel fails to come to life.
Tom Hardy is Leo Demidov, a WWII hero turned policeman on the trail of a child serial killer in Stalinist Russia. However, Stalin has proclaimed murder as a capitalist disease, meaning that there should be not homicide in the USSR. This puts Leo in an awkward position with his superiors and he has to decide if it’s easier to let the killings go unsolved or fight against the hardline political regime.
You can tell that a lot of time and money was spent in making Child 44 look and feel authentic and there’s a bleakness which encapsulates the film. However, it’s over-stuffed with too many subplots that bog-down the central mystery. No doubt it was a concession to keep many of the elements that made Smith’s novel a success, but what works as a novel can often fail in the transition to the screen.
The performances in Espinosa’s film are strong, with Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman being the standouts. However Joel Kinnaman is saddled with being the thankless villain and a subplot that could have been excised from the film altogether. Speaking of excised roles, it would seem that the majority of Jason Clarke’s plot thread was removed to get the film down to a manageable running time. There’s an interesting tale to be told here and Child 44 might have worked better as a high-end cable mini-series.
It was a brave creative decision to have the international cast speaking in Russian accents – although it simply doesn’t work here. Hardy’s accent might sound authentic but it’s as thick as week old goulash and you’ll find yourself straining in order to work out many of his lines.
Child 44 is a creative and commercial misfire. The intentions behind the film might be noble but Daniel Espinosa’s unfortunately fails to turn Tom Rob Smith’s novel into an engaging feature.
An interesting 7 minute featurette on how the production team gave Child 44 an authentic look.