Tom Hardy is one of those actors that always seems to be able to elevate a movie. Whatever other problems it may have, he remains a memorable part of it and often the best part. The same is true of Child 44, a dense, meandering anti-Soviet film that seems just a couple decades past its subject matter.
Leo Demidov (Hardy) is a Ministry of State Security investigator in communist Russia of the 1950s. A serial killer begins to strike, but Leo is hampered in his investigation by bureaucracy, corruption and general ideological awfulness from his society. After pushing the wrong people too far, Leo is demoted but remains determined to track down the killer, now acting outside of the law.
The biggest problem is probably the entire setting and tone, which is a relentless chorus of “Soviet Russia was bad.” The problem is that this is not a new song, its one we in the West have heard over and over again, and the most interesting parts of the movie, the way Leo has to navigate a society that does not want to help him in any way, get bogged down in side-plots that derail the events too much for us to get invested fully.
Like I said, Hardy is definitely the best part of this film, although most of the actors are still English and put on heavy Soviet accents to compensate. There are a few individual good scenes in this film, and the hopelessness of the entire experience gets felt very well, but aside from those reasons, there’s not much reason to watch this film unless you absolutely love Cold War era thrillers.