Movie Review: The Stalinist serial-killer flick Child 44 strains for seriousness

Gloomy, dishwater gray, and often framed through dusty glass, Child 44 wastes no time announcing itself as a capital-S Serious movie that doesn’t have a clue what it’s supposed to be about. Stalinist paranoia, marital anxiety, and a serial killer figure in the murky plot, done no favors by Daniel Espinosa’s inert direction. The look is leftover Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; the pace is mind-numbing.

Tom Hardy stars as Leo Demidov, an officer in the MGB, the precursor to the KGB. It’s 1951 in the Soviet Union of the Cold War-era imagination, where everyone speaks with a different Russian accent and no one can pronounce a single name right. This is, in other words, a rhetorical Soviet Union, rather than a historical one. Here, no one lives in communal apartments or drinks tea or uses diminutives or patronymics when addressing each other. They do, however, live …

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