Child 44 Blu-ray review
In 1933, Joseph Stalin imposed the Holodomor on Ukrainian citizens with the intent on starving them to death. Somewhere between 2.5 and 7.5 million died. Millions of children were left orphaned. One of the orphaned was Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD), would would grow into a respectable war hero and MGB agent.
Leo’s (so named so he could be linked to a brave lion) position has allowed him to live a comfortable life with his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander in the MILLENNIUM series), who accompanies him to operas and fine restaurants. He is a man of morals, and when he catches one of his men terrorizing children and threatening their lives, he berates the man into a worm, sparing the children and nearly falling into tears.
When Raisa is accused of making potentially traitorous remarks and Leo stands up for her honor, the two are exiled from Moscow to the significantly less busy town of Volsk, where he takes a less prominent positon under General Nesterov (Gary Oldman, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES). There, Leo begins hearing of a string of child murders that he believes are linked.
CHILD 44 is based on Rob Smith’s popular 2008 novel, which, if you didn’t read it, you certainly saw copies on prominent display at Barnes & Noble. Considering the novel’s popularity, it was expected that it would be adapted for the big screen. It’s just too bad the movie is unworthy of attention.
Clocking in plenty close to two and a half hours, CHILD 44 is an overlong and bloated effort. It takes 50 minutes just for Leo and Raisa to board the train to Volsk. All of the front-heavy loading is partly an attempt by screenwriter Richard Price (2006’s FREEDOMLAND, in which he adapted his own book; he also wrote five episodes of HBO’s THE WIRE) to remain faithful to the source and give all of the (far too many) characters and (far too many) subplots their time.
But even with so much thrown in, the viewer might still have difficulty caring about these characters. Much of this should also be pinned to the cast, particularly Hardy, who walks around looking as bored as the audience, speaking in a Hollywood-friendly accent that sounds exactly and only like a Brit trying to imitate a Russian. The talents of Rapace, Oldman, Joel Kinnaman (the ROBOCOP remake; he’s set to play Rick Flag in the upcoming SUICIDE SQUAD) and Paddy Considine (2014’s PRIDE) are also wasted.
Director Daniel Espinosa’s second American feature (after 2012’s SAFE HOUSE; his previous works bounced between Denmark and his native Sweden) is a dreary attempt that has minimal thrills and no pulse. That little support is offered from the screenplay and cast only hurts this missed opportunity.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong, colors are accurate and black levels are deep.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Dialogue is clear, sound effects come through powerfully and Jon Ekstrand’s score benefits quite a bit.
Reflections of History: The World of CHILD 44 (8:18): This promotional piece, which focuses heavily on the look of the movie, includes interviews with actors Joel Kinnaman and Gary Oldman, costume designer Jenny Beavan and more.