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DARK CRIMES (2018) review

May 21, 2018

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written by: Jeremy Brock
produced by: John Cheng, David Gerson, Simon Horsman, Brett Ratner & Jeffrey Soros
directed by: Alexander Avranas
rated: R (for strong and disturbing violent/sexual content including rape, graphic nudity, and language)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: May 11, 2018 & May 18, 2018 (limited & VOD/Digital)

 

If you look up the crime thriller “Dark Crimes” online, you’ll find that it’s listed as a 2016 film, which is curious considering Jim Carrey headlines it and no one really knew anything about until recently. That is, unless you were at the Warsaw Film Festival in October 2016, which is the only place it was shown until now. So, how is “Dark Crimes”, in which a brooding and bearded Jim Carrey marble-mouths a Polish accent throughout? Well, take a look at the awful poster above and check out the expression on New Zealand actor Martin Csokas’ face – that’s sums up how I felt after viewing this film: pretty indifferent and immediately drifting off to contemplate more pressing matters, instead of focusing on what I just watched.

Oh and yes, this film was originally called “True Crimes” (as you can tell from that rudimentary poster), which is also the name of the 2008 true crime/murder-mystery New Yorker essay from David Grann, the film is loosely based on. From what I’ve read of that article, it looks like true like is much more interesting than the film that Greek director Alexander Avranas wound up making.

Tadek (Carrey) is an honest, yet obsessive and permanently brooding, Polish policeman who’s determined to get to the bottom of a homicide that may have ties to a local underground sex club and a successful writer named Kozlow (Csokas “The Equalizer”). It may be his introverted behavior or his lifeless demeanor, but Tadek seems set apart from anyone else, as if he doesn’t exist to anyone but himself and when he is acknowledged, he’s all but overlooked or dismissed. Typically, we wouldn’t be surprised to see suicidal ideations written into such a character’s makeup.

 

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Jealous of his successful colleague, Gregor (Robert Wieckiewicz, “In the Darkness”), who has labeled Tadek “the last honest cop in Poland”, and has advanced in his career despite controversy of corruption. It’s never really established why Tadek’s reputation was tarnished, except for the fact that it doesn’t seem like he has very good detective skills, botching up some previous cases, despite his obsessive-compulsive proclivities. Tadek contributes to his stone cold and depressing home life with wife Marta (Agata Kulesza Ida“) and their teenage daughter, by remaining silent and withdrawing into his work – they don’t even look at each other at home. He’ll also check in on his mother (Anna Polony “Dekalog”) from time to time, who hopes she’ll never die alone (a specific foreboding plot point that predictably plays out jut like we think it will).

Tadek’s supposed instincts lead him to encounter Kozlow, after he connects the grisly serial murders described in the author’s latest book with the local murders that are reported in real life. The murders also happen to resemble a case that Tadek worked on years ago that never went anywhere. Tadek applies pressure to Kozlow (while driving around listening to the writer’s audiobook), bringing him in for questioning and somehow getting reinstated as a detective, but he doesn’t expect the suspect to be so cool and calm, nor is he prepared for Kozlow’s ability to turn the tables and bait Tadek.

In his unrelenting pursuit to follow his hunch and relinquish his career, Tadek encounters Kozlow’s girlfriend, Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg “Antichrist”), a woman whose vulnerability and history of abuse increases his curiosity and secret desires. Tadek becomes wholly focused on Kozlow and Kasia, which sets the beleaguered detective on a dark and dangerous path fueled by a drive that’s founded somewhere between perverse fascination and stubborn obsession.

 

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Somewhere within the bleak gray tones of “Dark Crimes” is an interesting story, but its overwhelmed by a familiar characters and plot lines with clunky dialogue, unfortunately. The opening scenes of unsavory S&M in the underground club (think a slightly lighter version of “Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom”) provide an inclination of the type of depravity hinted at in the film’s title.  Perhaps if the rest of the film would’ve continued such provocation there would be something to follow here, but despite an interesting cast, “Dark Crimes” offers very little more than a flat film weighed down by a sterile and melancholy aura.

It’s clear the actors are trying in Avranas’ film, but the screenplay by Jeremy Brock doesn’t do them any favors and the director isn’t guiding them into any unique territory. The draw of “Dark Crimes” may be Carrey in an uncharacteristic role, but then again we’ve seen him veer away from the comedy antics he’s known for in the past, so this isn’t anything all that new. All the role of Tadek provides for the actor is the chance to commit to a nondescript Eastern European accent and give him a chance to shave his head and grow out a beard in order to disappear into a character (something he’s done since the “In Living Color” days). Carrey is surrounded with a solid lineup of supporting actors, but some of them play characters that are quite familiar. Csokas is a worthy opponent, but it’s obvious his character is a lame red herring. Gainsbourg also provides an expected amount of masochistic kink, considering just about every character she takes winds up half naked with a strong libido. So, the characters may be overly familiar (I’ve seen more fleshed out iteractions on “Law & Order”), the film definitely could’ve benefitted from a different kind of story.

It’s not easily for a recognizable movie star to break away from the kind of material they’re typically attached to. Throughout the film, Carrey looks like he either just had a root canal or he’s been putting one off and he can’t stop thinking about the gnawing need for such a procedure. Except for a few odd Carrey quirks and moments, “Dark Crimes” and its dour tale populated by ruined people offers very little variation which can be quite wearying after a while. The fact that there’s very little suspense or mystery doesn’t help the picture either. That being said, the very last scene of the film is quite memorable, but I can’t say it’s payoff for what we have to go through (like Carrey’s O-face, for example) to get there.

Saban Films picked up the distribution rights for North America just last month, hoping that Carrey loyalists will flock to theaters to see their rubber-faced funnyman stretch his acting chops, but it feels more like an experiment on their part than anything else.

 

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RATING: **

 

 

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