|The Frankfurt-Tipp rating:|
|Original title:||Child 44|
|Production country:||USA 2014|
|Running time:||Approx. 137 min.|
|Rated:||From 16 years|
Moscow in 1953: In the Stalin era, there is officially no crime here. Intelligence officer Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) also believes this and fully supports his country's communist ideals. Thus, he has managed to secure a satisfying life for himself and his family. But when the child of a fellow officer (Fares Fares) is cruelly murdered and the crime is declared as an accident by Major General Kuzmin (Vincent Cassel), Leo's world view is shaken. A short time later, another child's body is found, whereupon Leo takes up the investigation, even against the will of his superiors. As a result, he is demoted and sent into exile. But even there the case does not let him go. Somewhere a brutal killer is on the loose and Leo wants to stop him before more children fall victim to him. But in doing so, he puts himself and his wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) in grave danger...
Child 44 is based on the first volume of Tom Rob Smith's trilogy of novels about Soviet secret policeman Leo Demidov. Inspired by the true case surrounding serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, the book tells an extremely suspenseful crime story that director Daniel Espinosa (Easy Money, Safe House) has now attempted to adequately bring to the screen. Unfortunately, the endeavor has largely failed despite an excellent cast and atmospheric imagery. The problem with the film is that it actually tells two stories: one is the actual criminal case, and the other is the story of a man who must choose between his loyalty to the Stalinist system and his will to expose the truth. Espinosa places too much emphasis on the political aspect of the story. For long stretches, the search for the serial killer fades completely into the background, before being resumed and brought to a conclusion in the final act in a somewhat rushed fashion.
This creates a somewhat unbalanced overall picture, in which it is also noticeable that many of the characters remain too superficial to keep the viewer hooked to the action despite the dramaturgical weaknesses. The fact that the film is bathed in dreary and gloomy colors for its more than two hours of running time is also likely to weigh heavily on the minds of some. The real problem here is that Child 44 isn't a bad movie in and of itself. Some scenes are enormously rousing, the actors - most notably Tom Hardy and an extremely nasty Joel Kinnaman - deliver very good performances, and the work of the set designers and cinematographer are also top-notch. And yet, for long stretches, there just isn't any real tension to be had.
Apparently, the first cut version of the film turned out to be considerably longer. And maybe it would work better as a three-hour two-parter on TV, since there are just some clear holes in the story in addition to the superficial character sketching. But in this version, the best-selling adaptation can generate little enthusiasm. If Espinosa had concentrated more on the hunt for the serial killer and if he had tightened up the fight against the regime that Leo has to fight out and integrated it better into the action, then Child 44 could have been an excellent cinema thriller. As it is, however, the whole thing comes across as two half-baked films that only want to fit together to a limited extent, and just aren't exciting enough to keep you riveted for the entire running time.
For those familiar with the book and able to fill in the gaps in the story, the weaknesses of this production may not be quite as noticeable. Those who can thus concentrate on the good actors and the successful aspects of the film might well enjoy an exciting evening at the cinema. But otherwise: only with reservation worth seeing!
An article by Frankfurt-Tipp