‘Child 44’ doesn’t live up to its literary predecessor

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Child 44 (2015)

Directed by Daniel Espinosa

6.5/10  R

Tom Rob Smith, the British author of the novel “Child 44,” would be rolling in his grave…if he wasn’t a perfectly healthy 35-year-old. And if he wasn’t busy rolling out premieres of the movie adaptation of his book right now. At any rate, he should be offended by the hack job that Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Price (“The Color of Money”) gave to his beautifully-written novel about love and corruption in the USSR.

When war hero and military policeman Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) finds compelling evidence that a string of young boys’ deaths might be murder – and not the easily-explained accidents that the MGB is using to cover their deaths up – he takes child-44it upon himself to investigate. Discreetly, of course, lest his strict agent brother (Joel Kinnaman) discovers that he’s betraying the communist ideal that murder doesn’t exist in paradise. When Leo is demoted to work in a small village under the supervision of General Nesterov (Gary Oldman), he finds a partner to help in his undercover investigation. He’ll also find the help of his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), though she only felt compelled to marry him out of fear and never truly loved him. As this serial child killer continues his vicious streak, Leo will draw closer to finding him…and closer to being found by the government he once served proudly.

Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace recently starred together in “The Drop,” in which they took on Brooklyn accents. Now, they try on Russian accents, never the most attractive-sounding ones. And I can say that, while they’re not perfect at it, they’re better than some. Vincent Cassel, playing an MGB higher-up, can’t do it. His natural French accent is too strong. Gary child44Oldman slips in and out of it during more heated exchanges. This sums up the acting in general, too.

In Smith’s novel, a marriage is dissected. Raisa struggles to serve a husband she only respects out of a sense of duty, while Leo wonders how to protect her body as well as her feelings. In the movie, this and many more things are skimmed over or altogether forgotten. Even at a sluggish 2 hours and 17 minutes, “Child 44” fails to cover so many of the exciting scenes that Smith’s novel weaved together so smoothly. And what the movie does show, it takes no time to explain. Even having read the book, I sometimes questioned what was happening. It happens so often, that a film fails to live up to its literary predecessor. But this time, I can truly recommend the novel over the film. It deserved the small amount of publicity it received.

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