What do you get when you combine a star-studded cast with a plodding storyline? Child 44.
When a movie that contains the likes of Brit stars Tom Hardy (soon to be seen in Mad Max: Fury Road), Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum) – along with Jason Clarke (John Connor in forthcoming Terminator: Genisys), Joel Kinnaman (Robocop) and Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) – comes together, you’d think you’ve got all the ingredients for a thriller that should really work.
But sadly this bleak serial killer drama, set in a 1953 Stalin-era Soviet Union, turns its intriguing premise – based on Tom Rob Smith’s hit novel – into a remarkably uninspiring affair that never ignites at any point, despite the production input of Ridley Scott.
This politically-charged effort is really a film of two halves; as it firstly chronicles the crisis of conscience for idealistic secret police agent Leo Demidov (Hardy), who loses power, status and his home, when he refuses to denounce his wife Raisa (Rapace) – who is suspected as a spy – as a traitor.
With the couple exiled from Moscow to a grim provincial outpost, it then expands on a sub-plot about a serial killer (Considine) who preys on young boys and leaves them dead near rail tracks – covered up as train accidents – which leads to them combining forces with Oldman’s General Nesterov to try and solve the case.
But soon Moscow gets wind of this, and Demidov’s unhinged rival Vasili (Kinnaman) is brought in to make sure the case ‘goes away’ – as the state doesn’t acknowledge crimes like this existing in a country they call ‘paradise’.
Sadly the dull and murky palette (though impressively realistic at points) of the movie is anything but paradise, and despite the best efforts of Hardy – who just about produces the best Russian accent in a bad bunch – this highly-anticipated thriller ends up being as dull as ditch water.
Even when we finally reach the pay-off, there’s no real resolution to why the killer has carried out these appalling acts – and all we get is a tepid finale that really sums up the whole disappointing experience.
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Cast: Tom Hardy, Joel Kinnaman, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Paddy Considine, Vincent Cassel, Sam Spruell, Fares Fares, Tara Fitzgerald, Charles Dance & Jason Clarke
Running Time: 2 Hr 17 Mins
Director: Daniel Espinosa