Sunday, May 20, 2018

In Theaters/On VOD: DARK CRIMES (2018)

(US/Poland - 2018)

Directed by Alexandros Avranas. Written by Jeremy Brock. Cast: Jim Carrey, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marton Csokas, Kati Outinen, Vlad Ivanov, Robert Wieckiewicz, Agata Kulesza, Piotr Glowacki, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julia Gdula, Anna Polony. (R, 93 mins)

On the heels of another departure with a supporting role in Anna Lily Amirpour's post-apocalyptic 2017 freakshow THE BAD BATCH, Jim Carrey has the lead in DARK CRIMES, a suffocatingly grim post-GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO-style mystery set in a perpetually gloomy and overcast Poland as opposed to cold, wintry countries of Scandinavia. Carrey is Tadek, a lone wolf Krakow detective busted down to records after being disgraced in a past murder investigation and a year away from retirement. In addition to his likely getting too old for this shit, he's remained obsessed with that botched case, despite warnings to let it go from his bosses and the negative effect on his home life, with a wife and daughter he barely acknowledges. A body was found bound and gagged in a lake, and Tadek, who never stopped investigating while off duty, has found a clue that leads to The Cage, a long-closed brothel and notorious S&M sex club housed in the basement of an apartment building in Krakow's scenic industrial district. Tadek and his reluctant partner Wiktor (Piotr Glowacki) meet with building's former landlord (Zbigniew Zamachowski, the star of WHITE in Kieslowski's THREE COLORS trilogy) and uncover surveillance VHS tapes detailing the orgies and various activities that took place at The Cage, where the victim was a frequent visitor. Also living in an apartment in the building years ago was Krysztof Kozlow (Marton Csokas), who's now a famous, controversial writer specializing in nihilistic thrillers and being the misanthropic enfant terrible of contemporary Polish genre lit. Kozlow's latest novel describes a murder completely identical to the cold case, including specific details that were never made public. Convinced Kozlow is the killer and determined to redeem himself as a cop before retiring, Tadek grows even more fixated and begins tailing Kozlow as well as his drug-addicted, single mom girlfriend Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), all the while spiraling into the darkness within himself and putting his job in jeopardy, especially when the trail of conspiracy and corruption--wait for it--leads all the way up the chain of command within the Krakow police.

DARK CRIMES is based on a 2008 true crime article written by David Grann (author of the book The Lost City of Z) that detailed a case involving Polish mystery writer Krystian Bala, who used his own 2003 novel Amok as a de facto confession to a murder he committed as well as an unpublished second book detailing a murder he planned to commit. It's a fascinating story that DARK CRIMES uses as a foundation and then quickly abandons, instead focusing on giving Carrey an opportunity to show his darkest possible side. The legendary comedian has done drama effectively before and is up to the challenge, but DARK CRIMES is a laborious, unpleasant, and ultimately oppressive disaster. Anyone well-versed in the Scandinavian mystery genre has to appreciate the sense of cold chill and isolation, but DARK CRIMES is downbeat and morose to the point of misery. It's got an appropriate score by Filter leader Richard Patrick (likely more affordable than Trent Reznor), but it gets no help from the funereal pacing and the obvious story developments. Show of hands: anyone not think Tadek was made the fall guy earlier when he got too close to the truth?

I get that director Alexandros Avranas (MISS VIOLENCE) is going for dreary and depressing, but DARK CRIMES just wallows in stomach-turning ugliness that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, especially in regards to Kasia, a junkie and former sex worker at The Cage who gets the majority of her available orifices violated by most of the male characters over the course of the film. This is getting to be business as usual for ANTICHRIST and NYMPHOMANIAC star Gainsbourg, once again cast radically against type as an irreparably damaged, bruised and abused cum dumpster. It gets even worse when Tadek goes through the inevitable "to know him, I must become him" phase of his pursuit of Kozlow and indulges in angry, violent, sadomasochistic sex with Kasia, which doesn't work when Carrey's vein-popping O-face looks like he's grunting "Alriiiiiighty then!" Carrey really isn't the problem here--his commitment to this long-shelved, straight-to-VOD dud (shot in 2015) is admirable. Production began just a few weeks after Carrey's former girlfriend Cathriona White died of a prescription drug overdose. One can sense that he's channeling that grief, despair, and rage into his performance as Tadek, but to what end? I love dark, bleak movies, but DARK CRIMES is a truly ugly, repulsive, exploitative film that offers absolutely nothing in the way of entertainment, suspense, or tension, has a twist reveal at the end that lands with a lifeless thud, and just leaves you feeling empty and depressed when it's finally over.

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