When a studio refuses to screen a film for critics, usually it’s a bad sign; It also makes that movie like forbidden fruit you just want to see even more. Child 44 certainly has its problems, the biggest Richard Price’s screenplay adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s novel. A good screenwriter should be able to read a hefty, complicated book and simply it’s most cinematic plotlines into working script. Price fails gloriously, Child 44 feels like a busy intersection with everything from Russian political corruption to cannibalism, child killers, homosexual extermination, and so on. It’s an extremely heavy film that never offers a glimpse of light. The performances are good, Hardy (Mad Max, Locke) doesn’t know how to give a bad performance.

 1933, the story shows us children being exterminated by hunger. 1945, one of those starving children becomes a decorated officer helping Moscow gain political power. 1953, Leo Demidov (Hardy) now works for one of the most corrupt governments in Russia firmly standing by their idealism: ‘There are no murders in paradise’. Moscow is anything but paradise, and when 8-15 year old male bodies are found along train tracks for miles, Moscow rules each one of them an accident. Accused spy Anatoly Tarasovich Brodsky (Clarke) is drugged and coerced into giving up seven associate names. Leo’s wife Raisa (Rapace) is on that list, and refusing to denounce her, they both are exiled to the poor town of Volsk and stripped of their wealth and power. Leo refuses to drop the case of the child killer and Moscow refuses to let him ruin their false sense of nobility.

 There is no excuse for this script to be this complicated. There are a couple of good stories in here, and it could have been about a man fighting against political corruption, or a detective tracking down a killer, but the way this script tosses in everything but the kitchen sink, sends the  viewer’s RPM’s into the danger zone far too early. A normal viewer would be so battered down by the brutal subject matter and the characters lack of respect for human life, I couldn’t blame anyone for walking out. You stay for Hardy, because he truly has emerged as one of the most versatile actors of his generation. His performance is the thin thread that keeps you in your seat until the credits finally signal your dismissal.

 Director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) doesn’t help Price’s blacklisted script that went through various lead actors including Christian Bale. Ironically Hardy and Oldman co-starred in The Dark Knight Rises, Lawless, and Tinker Tailor Solder Spy together, this is by far their least impressive collaboration. It’s disappointing that a stellar cast with such possibility in the characters go so far off track that you sort of can’t blame a studio for not wanting to give critics access to a film that buffoons itself.

 Final Thought – Over 44 reason why this film doesn’t work, but Tom Hardy isn’t one of them.

 Grade C

By: Dustin Chase