Cert 15 | ★☆☆☆☆
According to Child 44, post-war Soviet Russia is a place where the walls have ears and the woods have marauding killers addicted to the blood of children. Little rings true in this collage of Cold War nightmares, but nothing offends reality quite as much as the absurd Reeushyan icksshyents adopted by the cast. Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Noomi Rapace are all made to look ridiculous as they contort their mouths around syllable after syllable of Russglish: “Why you say theeess to me,” implores Hardy, doing his best impression of a broken hearted husband but sounding more like Borat.
Hardy plays Second World War veteran Leo Demidov, who was orphaned during Stalin’s Dekulakization programme. Having proved himself during the war, he enters the secret service where he acts as an enforcer, rooting out and interrogating supposed dissidents. The conflictedness with which he carries out his job doesn’t prevent him being ruthlessly efficient at it – until he’s asked to inform on his wife, Raisa (Rapace). When he fails to do so he’s banished to a grim Siberian railway town where he channels his frustration into solving a spate of child-killings brushed under the carpet by the authorities.
It’s a decent, muscular performance from Hardy, but speaking in that accent he loses access to the full range of emotions. This, along with the set (none of it was actually filmed in Russia) and the fact many of the characters look Middle-Eastern rather than Russian contribute to an overriding air of phoniness. Instead of shedding light on a shadowy society, director Daniel Espinosa peers at the darkness and imagines the worst. The result is a drab, humourless farce that’s almost as boring as it is counter-productive to the strained dialogue between East and West.