Life in post-WWII Russia was brutal. Stalin’s Soviets were cracking down on dissidents. Food was in short supply, and the winters were punishing. As if all this wasn’t enough, Child 44 adds yet another indignity: The Russian characters don’t even get to speak in their mother tongue. Instead, we get some kind of weird pidgin English in phlegm-clogged voices, like they’d just gargled a tub of rice pudding.
It’s a striking example of how a single wrongheaded choice—one that foregrounds awful accents over authenticity—can doom an entire movie. Based on Tom Rob Smith’s best-selling crime novel, the film follows Leo (Tom Hardy), a Communist Party activist. His investigation into a series of killings alarms his superiors, who insist that murder doesn’t exist in the new Russia. Demoted and sent to a work camp with his wife (Noomi Rapace), Leo finds himself unable to let the case go.
Child 44 has no excuse for being this bad. Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace are fine actors, and they’re backed by a remarkable supportingcast that includes Gary Oldman, Vincent Cassel and Paddy Considine. Given the subject matter, the stage should have beenset for a diverting Sunday afternoon thriller. But as soon as anyone opens their mouth, the film is reduced to laughable farce. Hardy comes off worst, risking complete tonsil failure as he barks and gulps like a demented sea lion. Thanks to a feeble script and bland direction, no one emerges from this fiasco with much dignity.
Cast and crew