Once upon a time, Jim Carrey was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Carrey had starred in a string of commercial and critical successes that skyrocketed him into superstardom and earned him two straight Golden Globe wins. While he is still highly regarded as a household name, Carrey has only been attached to a handful of projects within the last decade. Among these titles have been a number of supporting roles, an executive producer credit for Showtime’s television series I’m Dying Up Here, and the primary focus of the 2017 documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. In director Alexandros Avranas‘s (Miss Violence) Dark Crimes, Carrey once again has the spotlight as a lead actor. While Dark Crimes is not necessarily a bad film, the grim thriller is a rather mediocre effort.
Based on an article from The New Yorker titled “True Crimes – A postmodern murder mystery”, Dark Crimes follows a Polish detective named Tadek (Carrey) -whose previous botched investigation demoted him to desk duty- who takes on the unsolved murder of a businessman named Daniel. Tadek soon discovers that an unpublished novel from a sleazy famous author named Kozlow (Marton Csokas) contains an exact description of the murder. As Tadek digs deeper into the investigation he discovers a vile underground S&M club called The Cage where not only was Daniel a frequent visitor but where Kozlow’s girlfriend Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) was a former sex worker. Obsessed with redeeming his name, Tadek follows the rabbit hole into an investigation where he risks everything including his marriage.
Carrey will almost certainly be remembered as a comedy icon yet the former stand-up comic has proven that he is fully capable of diving into a dramatic role with great success. His performances in The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and The Majestic are all demonstrations of top-notch acting while his outing in Michel Gondry‘s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an all-time personal favorite. While Carrey truly gives it all in the bleak thriller -he even convincingly sports a Polish accent- Dark Crimes suffers from a rather predictable script by screenwriter Jeremy Brock (The Last King of Scotland). What separates great thrillers from the rest is their ability to guide audiences through the film’s central issue while still being able to create a genuine surprise. While the plot of Dark Crimes is certainly intriguing, audiences will find themselves a step or two ahead of Tadek’s investigation. Brock’s script even includes a number of throwaway characters that are only there to muddle the story. This is best shown during interactions between Tadek and his wife Marta (Agata Kulesza) whose marriage issues do not add any flavor to the film’s sour premise.
The film’s predictability, unfortunately, undermines Carrey’s dedication as well as the rest of the cast who provide Dark Crimes with some rather strong performances. Csokas is wildly impressive as he plays the cunning Kozlow full of ego and sleaze. Carrey and Csokas show off some great chemistry during their first interaction in an integration room as the actors battle back and forth for scene supremacy. Gainsbourg’s performance as the physically and emotionally abused Kasia is rather good yet the character is the center of some of the film’s more off-putting scenes. In fact, Gainbourg’s scenes and the scenes at the S&M Club are extremely disturbing and makes you question the reasoning behind Avranas’ excessive depiction of brutality towards women when the film’s grim subject matter was already on full display.
Avranas’ misogynistic scenes of sadomasochism will most certainly turn off the masses. Even with their lead actor’s star power, Avranas and Brock back themselves up against a wall by making a film that is full dread. To make matters worse for the duo, the editing in Dark Crimes only causes confusion on top of the film’s viciousness. The unappealing nature of Dark Crimes may have been a reason why it took the film almost two years to be released in the U.S. after its debut at the Warsaw Film Festival in 2016. Yet, even with its faults and unwarranted display of violence, the solid performances and intriguing plot of Dark Crimes may enough for a hardcore fan of the thriller genre.
In 2007, we saw Carrey take on the lead role in the psychological thriller The Number 23 which was critically condemned. Dark Crimes has been given the same negative press as it currently rests at a zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. While both of Carrey’s turnouts in rated-R thrillers have not been quite successful, it is clear that the thriller genre is not outside of his diverse range. One can only imagine what Dark Crimes could have been with a superior script and a director like David Fincher (Seven, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to helm the project. For now, it is comforting to know that Carrey is still fully committed to his craft as an actor.
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