Child 44 is without a doubt one of the biggest let downs of the year in what is turning out to be a year full of excitement and anticipation for film. The film is plagued by terrible writing, clumsy direction and mediocre performances.
Based on the 2008 bestselling thriller by Tom Rob Smith, the film is set in Soviet Russia during the final days of Stalin’s regime and takes influence from the crimes of Andrei Chikatilo, who murdered over a total of 53 people. The story follows Leo Demidov, an MGB officer, who begins chasing a child serial killer across a country that refuses to acknowledge the existence of the killer or his crimes. Speaking as someone who loved the book, I can honestly say that not only did I think the film was bad, but it also hurt me because it was an insult to the quality of Smith’s writing. I constantly found myself engrossed by the book and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, with the film I found myself praying for it to end and spare me anymore pain. I felt that the film’s screenplay stripped the book bare of everything that made it a riveting read: characterisation, story, tension, enriching dialogue and the context of life in Soviet Russia applied to a classic detective story was a unique quality.
Another issue that really got on my nerves were the performances of the actors. When I first read the cast list I couldn’t wait to see the film, what I got was a mashup of actors speaking in ‘compare the meerkat’ Russian accents with absolutely no chemistry or character depth that made them interesting to watch. Leading man Tom Hardy didn’t convince me in any way as Demidov; despite the fact I thought he was the ideal casting choice. The film’s supporting cast didn’t add anything dynamic to the mix either. The chemistry between Hardy and Noomi Rapace, who plays Demidov’s wife Raisa, was non-existent and a boring subplot that became an unnecessary drag on the progression of the main story – not that there was anything better there either. Gary Oldman’s performance as militia leader General Nesterov, was a disappointment mainly due to the fact that he was barely in the film. For someone with a formidable onscreen performance, Oldman barely struck a chord with me and I felt he was an unnecessary choice who was only in the film the raise box office profits. The direction was another fundamental error in the film’s failure. Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Easy Money), the film lacked every bit of intensity and claustrophobia that the book portrayed brilliantly.
Overall, the film was one of the poorest adaptations I have seen this year and one I will be happy to forget a lot quicker than most. Certainly a low point for Tom Hardy, but with the release of Mad Max: Fury Road on Thursday, I am more than confident he will quickly redeem himself in my eyes. To wrap up the review, if you as big a fan of the book as I am I strongly recommend you avoid this film as it will be like having a dagger driven through your heart by how much it is an unworthy adaptation. For those who have not read the book, I would also not recommend the film as it barely has enough thrilling ingredients to keep you entertained for the first five minutes never mind the full duration.
FINAL WORD: Overall, a very poor film that does not come anywhere close to the phenomenal book that spawned it. With the highly anticipated releases of other films coming out this year, it is more than likely Child 44 will fade into the background and rightly so.