Based on the novel of the same name by Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 stars Tom Hardy as Leo Demidov an MGB agent trying to uncover the perpetrator of the heinous crime of child murder. However, there is no murder in paradise as Stalin feels that murder is a capitalist disease spreading from the West. This means that any investigation into the crimes is a traitorous act, and when Leo continues his investigation and refuses to denounce his wife he sent into exile where a similar murder happens nearby.
One of the biggest dilemmas Hollywood have when making a film set in a foreign country with American or English stars is whether the actors adopt the native accent or just retain their original accent. With the latter option you'll might find a Cockney running round revolutionary France but if you go the full hog and get the actors to adopt the native accent it could distracting and laughable (see Keanu Reeves in Dracula). Child 44 goes down the get actors to adopt silly accents route with Tom Hardy leading the way with the best, albeit ropey, Russian accent. He's well ahead of the rest of the cast, particularly Gary Oldman who perhaps won't look back at this film too fondly.
Child 44 reminded me of the quite brilliant German film The Lives of Others which also is set behind the iron curtain and uses the feelings suspicion, paranoia and mistrust in a communist country as the backbone of a plot and whilst I was watching Child 44 I ended up thinking how great The Lives of Others is. Then I started getting annoyed with the couple kissing endlessly ahead of me, whether I find it annoying because I'm single and just bitter and jealous or because hearing their sloppy, wet kisses is deeply irritating to anyone single or not is up for debate. Anyway, I resisted the urge to accidently slap them on the back of head and turned my attention back to the bleakness on the screen.
Unsurprisingly with the subject matter involved it is a bleak film, there are nuggets of good story surrounding the paranoia and mistrust in Soviet Russia and fears held by Comrade Stalin that everyone has become too Westernized and thus were sent to gulags and left to die. There is also a nugget of an interesting story surrounding the child killer stalking Russian train stations. That, coupled with the amazing cast list, is why it's almost criminal that the film is so boring.
The film is professionally made, there is no sense of amateurism or shoddy filmmaking (though the action/fighting scenes are poorly edited as they're incomprehensible) but with nothing noteworthy in the way the film is made the mishmashing of several different plots into one, long and drawn movie makes for rather dull central story.
Even with the controversy of Russia banning the film (the portrayal of 1950s Russia was compared to Mordor by some important Russian guy) Child 44 still can't make any waves at the box office, perhaps the film's financial failure is because of the nonexistent marketing or the fact that the film is just so painstakingly slow it feels a chore to sit through, like watching your favourite sports team go through a losing streak.