I always look forward to a Tom hardy project, and with a supporting cast brimming with talent, ‘Child 44’ really had my interest, early on at least. But as we began to learn more about the film, our hopes of another Hardy hit were fading. We even predicted a crash and burn in our preview. Upon release, any doubts we had were given credence by the quite frankly, shitty reviews ‘Child 44’ received. I mean, the film got totally battered by just about everyone. That was enough to put me off for a while, but now that I’ve let the dust settle, I decided to give it a go and see just why this film was universally hated.
Based on the (rather good) novel by Tom Rob Smith, ‘Child 44’ centres around Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy), who is taken in by the military as an orphan, and goes on to become a high ranking officer in Moscow. When he refuses to denounce his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) however, the pair are exiled to Volsk. Whilst there, Leo begins to unravel a series of child murders, and must quickly decide who he can and cannot trust to help him with his pursuit of the ghost-like killer.
From what I can gather, the main criticism of this film was the acting, which is hard to believe given the calibre of actors involved. The Russian accents though, are truly lamentable; the critics were right about that one. Tom Hardy is the main offender in that respect, and this is certainly far from his best acting display. In the early stages of the film, his character is really unconvincing and it is quite uncomfortable to watch, but as the film progresses, things do improve. Alongside him, Noomi Rapace fares considerably better, but again she is capable of much, much better. The only star who may actually have raised his reputation from this showing is Joel Kinnaman, whose performance as the detestable Vasili revealed a cruel, ruthless side to a man I would normally have perceived to be on the good side.
Aside from any acting frailties, I actually thought the film in general was rather thrilling and captivating. An Eastern European setting and military themes are not usually something I look for in a film, but throw in a serial killer and some mystery and I’m on board. Much of this praise is testament to the work of Tom Rob Smith, but the way this complicated and twisted narrative is applied to the big screen should be acknowledged. My only issue was that the story, at times, was a little bit long-winded and over examined; a 2 hours 20 minute run time is too long in my eyes, even for some of the better films out there. But, the way the film handled scenes of violence, and pulled the story out of slow moments with exciting developments, kept me sufficiently engaged all the way to the end. The climactic scene – a fight to the death between Hardy and Kinnaman – was brutal, and quite entertaining, but that should have been the end.
I am quite prone to defending films which get a bad press (I didn’t even mind ‘Fantastic Four’), but this is far from a half-hearted, superficial defiance. I really did enjoy this film much more than I expected, and in fact, the negative reception probably benefitted my viewing experience by lowering my expectations. There’s far worse things to worry about than a questionable Russian accent, so if you can look past that, ‘Child 44’ be a surprisingly thrilling watch.
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman