Dark Crimes – True Crimes (2016)
Directed by: Alexandros Avranas | 92 minutes | crime, drama | Actors: Jim Carrey, Marton Csokas, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kati Outinen, Vlad Ivanov, Robert Wieckiewicz, Agata Kulesza, Piotr Glowacki, Julia Gdula, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Danuta Kowalska, Zygmunt Jozefczak, Marianna Figurska, Anna Polony
The February 11, 2008 The New Yorker featured an article by investigative journalist David Grann entitled “True Crime: A Postmodern Murder Mystery.” The piece described a true crime involving Krystian Bala, a Polish writer serving a lengthy prison sentence for the murder of businessman Dariusz Janiszewski. He was arrested thanks to an observant detective, who for a long time groped in the dark, but after reading Bala’s debut novel ‘Amok’ suddenly found himself on the right track. The writer had described in detail a murder that had many similarities with reality. That couldn’t be a coincidence, the detective thought. A story like this lends itself wonderfully to a film adaptation. Jeremy Brock (‘The Last King of Scotland’, 2006) wrote the screenplay for ‘Dark Crimes’ (2016) based on Grann’s article. Alexandros Avranas, the Greek director who previously made ‘Miss Violence’ (2013), directed and was signed by none other than Jim Carrey for the lead role. The professional prankster, who released one film after another, particularly in the 1990s, seems to have remained somewhat under the radar in recent years. The role he plays in this Polish-American production is far from what we are used to from him. Although Carrey has played a role in a thriller before with ‘The Number 23’ (2007), it takes some getting used to. Especially because his detective Tadek is so dead serious and serious that it almost becomes ridiculous and laughable again.
‘Dark Crimes’ starts off fascinatingly, with images of what’s going on in ‘The Cave’, a shadowy SM club where women are shown naked on dog leashes and where all kinds of abuse imaginable takes place. How dark do you want it to be? ‘The Cave’ plays a crucial role in the case that Tadek (Carrey) will have his head over. He has already galloped and was exiled for punishment to the administrative department of the police in Wroclaw. But then the body of a businessman – and also one of the owners of the club – is fished out of the river, gagged. Nobody dares to burn their fingers on the case, as the senior police chief Greger (Robert Wieckiewicz) was a welcome guest at ‘The Cave’. The disillusioned Tadek, who has nothing left to lose, however, bites into the matter and is soon convinced who the perpetrator is. In his latest book, writer Kozlov (Marton Csokas) has described a murder that is remarkably close to reality, including details that you can only know if you are very closely involved in the events. Tadek knows the book by heart and sees more and more clues to Kozlov’s guilt. But he has no more evidence than a crime novel. His family life begins to suffer and he even hooks up with Kozlov’s ex-girlfriend Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a hurt woman who wears her bruises with pride.
A blurry accent, impressive gray beard and clothes reminiscent of a dusty Soviet professor. Jim Carrey pulls out all the stops to appear serious. Where we know them as hysterical jerks who – often to the point of boredom – fire one joke after another at us, here he is melancholy and dull. It doesn’t suit Carrey; that exuberant humor is precisely his trademark and strength. As an actor, he comes into his own in tragicomedies such as ‘Man on the Moon’ (1999) and comedy films with a serious edge such as ‘The Truman Show’ (1998) and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004). ‘Dark Crimes’ is much too heavy in tone, which makes Carrey’s somewhat too modest performance almost laughable. The film takes itself way too seriously anyway; the minimalist approach is up to that point, but the viewer can never let off steam with a light-hearted moment, because it simply isn’t there. The grim atmosphere, the silences, the pernicious characters and the uncomfortable music reinforce that oppressive effect once again. In a good thriller, that oppressiveness is a positive point, but in ‘Dark Crimes’ it turns out unfavorably. That is also due to the scenario, which quietly meanders and ripples through to that one twist that the makers have in store. Until then, however, very little happens, and what is happening is barely interpreted or explained.
Fortunately, this thriller does have a twist, and Charlotte Gainsbourg portrays the only flesh and blood character with apparently little effort. They are sparse highlights in this melancholy Polish-American thriller that on paper thinks it is much more than it actually is.