Feels like 40 movies

The China Post - - ARTS -

then jump to 1953; Demi­dov is an of­fi­cer in the MGB, the Soviet in­tel­li­gence agency (and KGB fore­run­ner), tasked with track­ing down traitors.

This is a world where, as one char­ac­ter notes, it can be “just our turn” to be de­nounced and ar­rested as a spy. And in­deed, things turn dif­fi­cult for Demi­dov when his MGB boss, Kuz­man (Vin­cent Cas­sel) or­ders him to in­ves­ti­gate his own wife, Raisa (a sen­si­tive Noomi Ra­pace).

At the same time, Demi­dov has hit on some­thing dis­turb­ing: The young son of a col­league has been killed by the train tracks. Demi­dov knows from see­ing the body — naked, and sliced up — that the boy was mur­dered, but he’s or­dered to tell the fam­ily it was a train ac­ci­dent. Why? Be­cause in Stalin’s worker’s par­adise, mur­der doesn’t ex­ist; it only ex­ists in deca­dent cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­eties.

Demi­dov doesn’t have time to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther in Moscow be­cause, hav­ing re­fused to de­nounce his own wife, he’s roused from bed and ex­iled along with Raisa to a far-off out­post, where he’s given a filthy room and an unglam­orous job un­der a mer­cu­rial boss (Gary Old­man, welcome but un­der­used).

But boys keep get­ting killed by train tracks — this is where the num­ber 44 comes from — and the movie keeps tog­gling be­tween be­ing a po­lit­i­cal history film and a de­tec­tive story (the se­rial killer is ac­tu­ally based on the Ros­tov Rip­per, who in real life op­er­ated decades later). Demi­dov is de­ter­mined to track down the killer, and even re­turns to Moscow to in­ves­ti­gate on the sly. But a for­mer col­league, Vasili (Joel Kin­na­man, in a monochro­matic vil­lain role, with lit­tle to ex­plain his mo­ti­va­tion) is bent not only on stop­ping him, but elim­i­nat­ing him.

In its fi­nal half hour, the movie be­comes an ac­tion film, with a cou­ple of vi­cious fight scenes — a bloody free-for-all in a train car, and an equally messy strug­gle in a huge mud pud­dle.

We won’t ex­pose the end­ing here, though fans of the book ob­vi­ously know it, and also know that “Child 44” is the first in a tril­ogy. Should the film­mak­ers pur­sue the other in­stall­ments, they’ll hope­fully ex­er­cise a bit more dis­ci­pline and leave more on the edit­ing room floor next time around.

French with Chi­nese sub­ti­tles Com­edy 2015 98 min­utes

France Jeremie wakes up and finds out the per­son be­side him is not his fu­ture hus­band An­toine but a pretty woman. What’s worse, he be­gins to fall for her. Di­rected by Noémie Saglio and

Maxime Go­vare With Pio Mar­mai, Franck Gas­tam­bide and Adri­anna Gradziel

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