** out of ****
Based on Tom Rob Smith’s bestseller, Child 44 is the story of a Soviet detective and WWII hero (Tom Hardy) confronted with the death of a colleague’s child. His colleague thinks it
was murder, but the Communist Party’s official stance is that murder is a decadent Western phenomenon not seen in the USSR.
Eventually, Hardy comes around and begins investigating on the sly. There’s plenty of potential in the story, and occasionally the movie seizes on it. It’s part police procedural, part examination of life under Stalin’s reign of terror. But the lifeunderStalinism parts are better, as citizens continuously face hard choices about what they can and can’t say. They constantly fear when their moment will come, when they’ll be taken away to a gulag or to be executed. A story
by Hardy’s wife (Noomi Rapace) explaining why she really married him is particularly sad. Unfortunately, the film as a whole is too cluttered (it runs 137 minutes). The serial killer
stuff is fairly perfunctory, and director Daniel Espinosa badly botches the staging of two important action scenes in the final act. The movie loses momentum when it should be gaining it.
As usual, Hardy gives a capable performance in the lead, but Child 44 lets him down.