Jim Carrey stars in a dull, dark, depressing film with very little on its mind.
Dark Crimes debuts exclusively on DIRECTV April 19 and opens in theaters and On Demand May 18.
The real-life case that Alexandros Avranas’ Dark Crimes is based on is deliciously post-modern. As detailed by author David Grann in The New Yorker, an author named Krystian Bala had murdered a businessman named Dariusz Janiszewski sometime in 2000. The trail was lukewarm-to-cold for three years when Bala published a sensationalist crime novel called Amok, wherein he essentially wrote a fictionalized version of his own actions, leading the police to him. A true crime author essentially used his own crimes as inspiration. This sounds like the premise of an episode of Tales from the Crypt, especially given Bala’s propensity to present himself as a badass Nietzsche-quoting hipster nihilist.
The Bala story, in turn, inspired Grann to write a true crime article, adding a post-modern wrinkle that was not lost on the author (he called his article, fittingly enough, True Crime). Avranas’ Dark Crimes, which originally premiered at the Warsaw Film Festival in 2016, and is only now getting a proper release (on DirecTV on April 19th, and in theaters on May 11th), adds another layer of post-modern intrigue, as it fictionalizes the events from the articles, changing the names of the characters, rejiggering the themes, and casting a well-known Hollywood actor – in this case, Jim Carrey. Now that we’ve gotten to the film, we’ve experienced this story looking at infinite reflections of itself.
Unfortunately, that’s where the stimulation ends with Dark Crimes, as the final product in this long factory of inspiration is a muddy, dour slog that leaves one feeling bored and depressed.
Dark Crimes follows police officer Tadek (Carrey) who is investigating a murder, uncovered by a recent crackdown on a violent sex club. Tadek is a hollow-eyed spectre of depression, a malnourished ball of pale skin masked by the type of beard one is used to seeing on the faces of long-dead Russian authors. He hates his wife and doesn’t speak to his child.
In learning about the underground sex industry in Warsaw, Tadek is led to the fiction work of a local badass hipster nihilist author named Kozlow (Marton Csokas) who seems to know a little too much about the clubs’ mechanics, and a little too much about a recent murder. In interviewing Kozlow, Tadek will become fixated on the clubs and the violence and too strongly on the killer’s ex (Charlotte Gainsbourg).
Dark Crimes then becomes a predictably dark drama about a police officer who becomes a little too closely embroiled in the details of his case, eventually becoming obsessed to the point of relating a little too closely to the killer. This common cop-becomes-obsessed dynamic is not new; it can be seen in just about every episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Any sort of tantalizing self-awareness is sadly absent from Dark Crimes, as is the alluring nature of darkened nihilism. Tadek is only depicted as a distant empty vessel, and while Carrey’s performance is convincingly unhappy, one never gets a sense as to why he would be inspired and obsessed with tales of sex clubs and murder. Kozlow is invited to share his philosophy, but he is never given a proper platform to explain to Tadek (and to the audience) why an ethos of meaninglessness is at all appealing. Dark Crimes assumes, in a repellently adolescent fashion, that violence itself is going to be intriguing.
What’s more, the pace of Dark Crimes is agonizingly slow. As a critic, I frequently advocate for slower paces, and I typically like films that breathe evenly, but Dark Crimes merely wallows in slow-moving misery. It may, perhaps, be convinced it is doing something post-modern or daring (Nudity! Obsession! Sex!), but is, in actuality, thumbing idly through a litany of criminal activity without much in the way of interest. Dark Crimes touches its subject matter the way a lazy, unenthusiastic cat bats at a toy that rolled close to it.