Child 44 (Blu-ray Review)

Child 44After a friend’s son is found dead, Soviet secret-police officer Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) suspects his superiors are covering up the truth. When Leo dares to raise questions, he is demoted and exiled to a provincial outpost with his wife (Noomi Rapace). There, Leo soon discovers other mysterious deaths with similar circumstances and convinces his new boss (Gary Oldman) that a derange serial killer is on the loose – and must be stopped before he strikes again in this electrifying thriller.  


Child 44


Color me curious as one of those that thought the trailer for Child 44 was pretty interesting. Now after watching the film I am left feeling empty. Child 44 is set in 1953, Soviet Union – in what would be Stalin’s last year in power and in life. Leo (Tom Hardy) is a soldier and now member of the Soviet Secret Police. He is married to Raisa (Noomi Rapace) and everything is as it should be. He’s trying to have a child with Raisa with no luck.

On what would be one uneventful day the body of a young child is found near some train tracks and is ruled an accident. It’s an accident, because in this age “there is no such thing as murder in paradise.” Murder is a western notion and that doesn’t happen in 1953 Soviet Union. Keep in mind that we’re also knee-deep in the Stalinist movement. The police will shoot you on sight if you even dare to hint at facts or common sense.  This becomes the deal breaker as one of Leo’s friends’ son is also found near some train tracks and the higher ups rule that an accident, as well. It’s obvious to everyone around that it is no accident but common sense and the very basic act of speaking up against authority is met with a bullet to the head almost instantly and where one stands.

Leo becomes problematic with his “notions” and is quickly demoted and shipped off to a far away province to work under General Mikhail Nesterov (Gary Oldman). Nesterov has an even shorter fuse than Leo’s bosses in Moscow ever had. When the killings pick up again in Leo’s new turf his options decrease. Nesterov doubts Leo and Raisa starts to worry for him, as well.

As I mentioned before Child 44 had all sorts of potential but it drops the ball and never recovers. The narrative becomes convoluted and we spend way too much time on several other subplots that the main plot of Child 44 is lost. The last time I saw a fractured narrative like this was a few years ago in Black Dahlia.  I was one of the few people that liked that film but mostly for it’s stylistic flourishes. Child 44 is a great looking film but it’s overly long and convoluted. The serial killer story lines is ignored a lot throughout its 137-minute running time and that is not a good thing considering that the film is called CHILD 44. 44 meaning that there are 44 victims yet we’re treated to a film that plays more like apolitical thriller than a crime thriller.

The film could have either been longer or certain subplots could have been removed altogether. The serial killer aspect is what needed to be out in front and that got lost somewhere down the line. If you’re at all interested in 1953 Stalinist Russia then Child 44 is decent enough but if you’re interested in the serial killer aspect that is spelled out for you in the title of the film then I would suggest skipping it and renting something like Se7en or Zodiac. I guess there’s a reason why Child 44 got such a limited release. I have not read the novel that the film is based on but I’m hoping that it fleshes out the serial killer portion more than the film did. What to do, what to do.


Child 44


Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: This is a great looking Blu-ray. I the image is quite clean, clear, and crisp. I did not detect any sharpness or contrast fluctuations. The image was nicely balanced.

Depth: The image looks terrific. All of the subtle nuances are kept in check and considering the subject – the Blu-ray holds up its end of the bargain quite nicely.

Black Levels: Black levels are stellar. Compression and/or crush are absent.

Color Reproduction: The color palette is very muted but does poke through every once in a while giving the image a pastel looking appearance – in parts.

Flesh Tones: It’s cold in Russia, so expect everyone to look pasty, which is a compliment. The Blu-ray comes through on that front.

Noise/Artifacts: I did not detect any instances of first or debris.


Child 44


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Descriptive Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: The film is a mixed batch of different sounds, because it’s a hodgepodge of many different things. It’s a thriller, war movie, drama, etc., and the audio design reflects this. One minute there’s a family dinner the next there are soldiers mowing down the enemy. This lossless soundtrack handles the carnage very well. It’s not reference for nothing.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE gets many shots in during the scenes of war violence and violence in general. The LFE channel is never heard it’s only ever felt – as it should be.

Surround Sound Presentation: The rear channels handle the ambient sounds well – and the gunfire even better. Bullets, planes, and mortar shells littler the background in a very dynamic fashion.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crystal clear even through fake Russian accents.


Child 44


We don’t have any special features worthy of note on this Blu-ray and that will tank the score a bit. There’s a very short making-of featurette, trailer, and Digital UltraViolet Copy included.

  • “Reflections of History” Featurette (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)
  • Digital HD UltraViolet Copy


Child 44


Daniel Espinosa is a talented director but the material here betrays him. The Blu-ray has reference audio and reference vide but the extras are almost nonexistent. Please taper your expectations. Child 44 is a great looking film and more than competent but it’s severely misguided and that is very unfortunate.


Child 44 is available on Blu-ray & DVD!






Child 44


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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