• Child 44

    Released By: Lionsgate
    Released On: August 4, 2015
    Director: Daniel Espinosa
    Cast:Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Victor Cassel
    Year: 2015
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    The Film:

    There can be no revisionist history when it comes to Josef Stalin. The man was a monster. While Hitler gets most of the recognition when it comes to genocide, it can never be said that Stalin didn't do his absolute best to come out on top. Child 44 starts out with a nod to Stalin's madman roll, revealing that thousands of children were left orphaned when he, whether directly or indirectly, murdered their parents. One of these orphans rids himself of his family name to become Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) and puts the past behind him.

    When Leo becomes a war hero by chance after lucking into the photograph that would become known as "Raising A Flag Over The Reichstag", he finds his career in the military flung into overdrive. He hobnobs with the top brass, he eats at the finest restaurants, he has a pretty swanky apartment in Moscow while its citizens live in squalor, and his lady friend Raisa is gorgeous enough to raise the green monster of envy in one of his colleagues. However, while he has a reputation for being a fierce soldier and a cold, calculating officer, Leo also seems to despise the kind of senseless violence that left him an orphan, physically beating a fellow officer when he shoots two suspected accomplices of a traitor in front of their children, which sets off a chain reaction of events.

    Were he a man of no heart, Leo's rise to the top of his game would have been a sure bet. But when his friend's son is found by the railway tracks with some of his organs surgically removed, he has a hard time accepting the "Death By Train" edict handed down by his superiors. And when another body turns up, Leo is thrown further into torment; torn between his sense of justice and needing to stop an apparent serial killer, and Stalin's credo that "Murder is a Capitalist Disease". Further adding to his troubles is the accusation that Raisa may be working with British spies, a notion that Leo refuses to accept; which gets him busted down to militia officer in the poverty-stricken, dirty old town of Volks, under a nasty piece of work by the name of General Nesterov (Gary Oldman). When another body of a child turns up next to the train tracks, Leo becomes more determined to find the killer; but underestimates how far Moscow is willing to go to cover up a murderer in their version of paradise.

    Based on Tom Rob Smith's successful novel of the same name, Child 44 was a box-office flop, and it's not hard to see why. It's not the acting; Tom Hardy does a brilliant job here, walking the line between mechanical USSR military man, and sympathetic orphan with a conscientious need to see justice done, often in the same scene; and the rest of the players, Paddy Considine, Victor Cassel, Gary Oldman, are equally as impressive. The camera work and set design are also incredibly well-done, capturing Stalin-era Russia as one would imagine it; dark, dirty, and depressing, with the haves seeming as miserable as the have-nots. And even at almost two-and-a-half hours, though Child 44 does lag here and there, the film isn't difficult to sit through.

    The problem with Child 44, is that despite the situations involving intrigue, regardless of the scenes involving tense moments, there is not thrill here, no suspense, no tension. It plays it all straight, and there's never any doubt where it's going or what the outcome will be. With the exception of a few violent scenes, there's nothing here that raises any kind of emotion, and the flat response it elicits; throughout such a long journey; is what prevents Child 44 from being a great film.


    Child 44 comes to blu-ray from Lionsgate in a 2.40:1 transfer that looks about as good as it can. To be clear, even though the detail is more-or-less clear throughout, and the black levels are largely solid, Child 44 is one dark and dirty film that isn't going to make people say, "Wow, your home theatre setup is very excellent, I would like one of my very own that will mirror it's strengths". That being said, the picture is free from any unnecessary visual issues.

    The 5.1 DTS-HDMA track is more than adequate, with dialogue balanced well against the score and sound effects. Tasteful use of the surrounds and LFE provide an immersive experience, but this isn't an action film; the soundtrack has it where it needs to without going overboard.

    Reflections of History: Recreating The World of Child 44 (08:18) is a short featurette that discusses some interesting aspects of the films costume and set design, with input from the costuming staff, prop department, and some of the actors.

    A Trailer for the Film as well a promo reel for other Lionsgate releases is also included.

    The Final Word:

    Huge on looks, detail, and acting strength, Child 44 falls short of the mark when it comes to providing an engaging film experience.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!