“Dark Crimes” (2018)
Running Time: 92 minutes
Written by: Jeremy Brock
Directed by: Alexandros Avranas
Featuring: Jim Carrey, Agata Kulesza, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kati Outinen, Zbigniew Zamachowski and Marton Csokas
Kozlow: “The river has an end and a beginning.”
There is undoubtedly a dark side to Jim Carrey’s professional and personal persona, which has never been fully explored on film, although he has dabbled in films that have very serious and definite dark corners. “Dark Crimes” (2017) is an attempt by the actor at something very dark, as well as a very original as well as exciting narrative. However this movie has been made with what is a novice writer as well as director so it never really amounts to much for anyone involved, which is a missed opportunity. In fact, this movie reminded me much of the Nicolas Cage starring, Joel Schumacher directed “8mm” (1999) which was made after Cages Oscar win and when Schumacher seemed lost as a director – both men have never really recovered career wise, which is a loss for audiences everywhere. Carrey who has been extremely quiet and absent from movies since the misjudged decision to rekindle earlier success with “Dumb and Dumber To” (2014) has made the decision to almost retire from acting and live a life in retreat so it was with some anticipation that I looked forward to watching this thriller, but it did end up being decidedly average which was a real shame for audiences.
Early in his career Jim Carey was always unfairly judged on his early career comedy as well as the massive success he had with those movies, so much so that almost any attempt at something serious has always been looked down on by the critical elitists as well as those in Hollywood who thought they were too good for his style. There have been few actors that have reached the giddy heights that Carrey has in terms of a bonafide box office draw, he broke early comedy records before turning his hand to high concept dramas that still made people want to watch him. Even his critical failings such as the recent “Dumb and Dumber To” made a relatively large amount – people still like Jim Carrey and are willing to go to the theatres to see him. Something that can not be said for many of his peers who are nearing their sixties. If there is one thing that Carrey has earned is the right to spread his wings, trying different genres and fail if needs be. His perceived fear of failing could be said to have led to him taking small roles in small movies, just to see if he can operate within tightly resourced movies with inexperienced directors.
“Dark Crimes” is directed by Alexandros Avranas, a relative filmmaking novice, but someone who has directed a couple of movies in his native homeland of Greece, here he gets to make his English language debut which may explain the lack of narrative coherence as well the difficult relationship the screenplay has to the finished movie. This is also the first time that Avranas has directed someone else’s screenplay, which has been written by Jeremy Brock who is as experienced a screenwriter as there has ever been. Brock has adapted this story from an article by New Yorker writer, David Grann who not only is experienced but other stories of his have been adapted into movies, such as the incredible “The Lost City of Z” (2016) that deserved far more attention than it received on its release. The issues with this film are all around the direction as well as the decisions that have been made in terms of tone as well as how the narrative plays out in relation to the fairly simple plot, which is a shame as the general idea that this movie is based around is actually very good.
The film follows Tadek who is a detective who takes on a case involving the murder of a businessman. To his and everyone’s surprise the case is identical to a character’s murder in a recently published novel by a man named Kozlow. While the crime appears to be an open and shut case, Tadek discovers a darker secret. This is a secret that like many thrillers dresses itself up as a twist but falls short when the revelation counts.
The star of this movie is of course Carrey complete with old man beard that he has been sporting for the past few years, it is obvious why he has it here, to disassociate viewers from his face so that there is a separation between comedian and dramatic actor – it does work to an extent, but at times I felt myself looking into the beard, so at times it did become a distraction. Now I have to say that I enjoy watching Carrey, he is a fine actor with an obvious understanding of how to act as well as inhabit a character, which he does here extremely well – as I have said I just thought that he was better than the material or this director. The main supporting actors are the protagonists Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marton Csokas who are both excellent, playing as direct opposites to Carrey. For me it is Csokas, who has been a mainstay of movie bad guys for over two decades, is not only a great character actor but a scene stealer as well, I always find myself transfixed by his performances as well as his endless supply of accents which he seems to have at his disposal. As well as Csokas there is Charlotte Gainsbourg who has proven herself a very capable actor particularly in movies where the narrative is not clear or traditional in the way some audiences might expect, she is also not afraid of any acting challenges, which in a movie like this is very important, as it means there is a tendency to side with her, which may or may not be a mistake.
My feelings about this movie are mixed, the actual story is very good as well as original, it has a Kafkaesque feel as well as non traditional Hollywood methods to tell this story, that in the hands of a more experienced director might have worked in the narratives favour. However, while this film looks and feels like a dark thriller in the vein of “Seven” (1995), with some flourishes that fit in with the genre, it has a very uneven pace as well as some divergences that feel false as well as exceptionally hollow, not authentic at all. A more experienced director may have been able to take an objective view of the screenplay, challenging some of the basic parts as well as decisions to come up with something more original as well as gripping. It seems on the surface that the power within the production would have been with Jim Carrey and the screenwriter who are as about as experienced as you can get, not only that they are also A-list talent who are able to hold sway over the production, it may also explain why the director has returned to his homeland for his next film.
That is not to say that this is a terrible movie or unwatchable, but for a movie with a running time of ninety minutes it will seem like a much longer experience which is definitely not something that should occur. The best movies are those that fly by, no matter the running time, the narrative should be original enough that an audience should be curious about not only what happens next but how threads relate to each other as well as coming together to form the plot. The reason that this is worth watching is that the pedigree behind this movie is just fantastic, it is based on a very good article as well as being written and adapted by two great writers, if you stick through the movie you will be surprised by the general story as well the confrontational ending that may even surprise you.