Film Review: Dark Crimes

You can draw a straight line from any iteration of the Hellfire Club to 'A Serbian Film' and then 'Dark Crimes,' a fact-inspired tale of men living out their darkest fantasies at the expense of throwaway women.
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Disgraced police detective Tadek (Jim Carrey) defies both common sense and protocol to investigate the murder of a man whose corpse—hog-tied and pumped full of Rohypnol—is pulled from a river. Tadek's stubborn unwillingness to join the go-along-to-get-along program has put him on the blacklist of everyone who matters, but he suspects that Greger's death has something to do with a notorious rape-and-drugs-and-murder emporium called "The Cage," notorious for catering to the basest sexual desires of the rich and perverted.

As Tadek investigates, he narrows his focus onto acclaimed novelist Kozlow (Marton Csokas), whose work includes disturbing echoes of the real-life murder. Is it merely coincidence, a writer reflecting the tenor of the time, or could Kozlow actually be the killer?

Based on David Grann's 2008 nonfiction New Yorker magazine article "True Crime: A Postmodern Murder Mystery," Greek director Alexandros Avranas' Dark Crimes has the makings of a metaphysical meditation on the tragedy of death foretold on the order of Nicolas Roeg's extraordinary Bad Timing (1980)…and yet it stumbles at every turn.

Csokas' Kozlow is modeled on Polish novelist Krystian Bala, who, in 2007, was convicted of killing a man with whom he believed his wife was having an affair. Bala's 2003 novel Amok—which told a story strikingly similar to real-life events—played a large part in the investigation and his ultimate conviction. This ought to be fascinating stuff, a real-life version of Adrian Lyne's once-shocking Basic Instinct (1987). The trouble is, it's not a fascinating film—quite the opposite.

The problem isn't Carrey, all but unrecognizable behind a Mennonite beard; his performance is subdued and perfectly respectable. If it stops short of mesmerizing, that's to some degree because Tadek isn't mesmerizing; he's that guy nobody really notices, an ordinary person doing his ordinary job…even if the circumstances are extraordinary. It's Csokas who has the spotlight role, but the Devil's been getting all the best lines for so long that it barely merits mention.

Still, the inescapable fact is that Dark Crimes is dull except when Charlotte Gainsbourg—in the minor role of Kozlow's girlfriend—is onscreen. She's a bracing reminder that there are no small roles, only small actors.

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