It may have left the theater but hunt Child 44 down at home. It carries an emotional punch whose ending will leave you with tears in your eyes.
There is no question that the talent of some actors brings meaning to small, largely ignored films. One of those actors is Tom Hardy. While he has played significant roles in high budget films like Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), he has repeatedly delivered powerful performances in movies seen only in independent theaters like Warrior (2011), Lawless (2012) and last year’s Locke and The Drop.
He delivers again in Director Daniel Esponosa’s Child 44. Taking place in Russia under Stalin’s totalitarian rule in 1953, he is a World War II hero who has risen in the ranks of the military police.
The mesmerizing quality of this film is reflected by its depiction of the conformist nature of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The government lives by one rule, namely to establish submission as a national trait, and the police don’t need to investigate any killings because there is “NO MURDER IN PARADISE”.
In short, Mr. Hardy’s character, Leo Demidov, is soon disgraced when his wife, Raisa, is implicated in challenging the government’s reach into every corner of a citizen’s life. He also has challenged the accepted wisdom of his country by trying to investigate the tragic death of a friend’s small boy whose death along some railroad tracks was not an accident but clearly the work of a sadistic killer.
Leo and Raisa are soon forcibly transferred to a Siberian-type city, and things aren’t helped by the fact that their marriage is in shambles. However, they overcome the absence of love when they both join hands after realizing that 44 small boys have been found mutilated along the rails of the Soviet Union.
Mr. Hardy and Noomi Rapace, who plays Raisa, are a combined work of art, reliving a relationship that also developed out of life’s ashes as seen in The Drop. Neither one can be described as physically stunning by Hollywood’s traditional standards, yet their characters are enormously attractive. Their films are reminiscent of those referred to as film noir in Hollywood in the 1940s.
In my recent review of Furious 7, I referred to Michele Rodriguez and Zoe Saldana as the best female ass kickers in Hollywood. I was partially wrong, as I excluded Ms. Rapace. Her performance as Lisbeth Salander in the three Dragon Tattoo movies should be classified as unforgettable classics. And the vicious fights that take place in this film where she takes a wicked beating to save a wounded husband is horrifyingly compelling.
I also need to mention that the film is tremendously helped with small performances from Gary Oldman, Paddy Considine, Joel Kinnaman and Jason Clarke. As previously shown by all four, they know how to inhabit a character and bring him to life.
Let me end with the frank question concerning who would want to see a film about a child serial killer? Well, you should, particularly since the film allows you to peek into the cultural devastation taking place under Stalin’s control. Yes, you may turn away at times, but not for long.