Jim Carrey once again attempts to prove to the world that he is a good dramatic actor. Unfortunately, the dour material found within Dark Crimes is a suit tailored for a different actor. Carrey makes the most of it and is genuinely impressive even as he struggles through a Polish accent in this true crime-inspired murder mystery thriller. The film itself is plodding and can stretch your patience and at the same time doesn't give enough to the audience for the twist and turns to payoff with an ending that feels more like a cheat than a grand diabolical revelation. Lionsgate delivers the film onto Blu-ray with a decent transfer and audio mix. Those curious should consider a rental before a blind buy. Give It A Rent.
I have no problem when an actor established in a certain genre decides to shake things up. When a dramatic actor goes comedy, the results can often be surprisingly hilarious. When a comedian tries their hand at drama, the performance can often be shocking. Some great actors have been able to naturally slide between extremes without alienating their fans. Others routinely struggle to prove themselves. Such is the case of Jim Carrey. While the man can absolutely pull off drama, the material he chooses to showcase his range is rarely a natural fit. With Dark Crimes directed by Alexandros Avranas, Carrey handles the reins of a tortured police detective trying to solve a cold case amiably, but the script suffers from a plodding pace, lack of character motivations, and a twist it doesn't earn.
Krakôw Police Detective Tadek (Jim Carrey) has been handed a cold case - the murder of a man called Sadowski tied up in a sadomasochistic fashion and dumped by the side of a river. The victim traces back to a sex club for wealthy men and high-class prostitutes called The Cage, but that's where the case went cold. The club was closed. There were no records for money transactions or names of men who frequented the club. The case catches a break when popular crime author Krystof Kozlov (Marton Csokas) publishes a murder mystery novel with details that are entirely too similar to those of Sadowski's murder to be coincidental. Obsessed with proving his case, Tadek begins an affair with Kozlov's girlfriend, a former prostitute of The Cage by the name of Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who may know more than she's telling.
Maybe it's because I've seen too many Brian De Palma movies or I've read too many Agatha Christie novels for my own good, but I had Dark Crimes pegged pretty early on. I was aware of the 2008 article in The New Yorker by David Grann that inspired this film, but I'd never read it so I didn't have that working against me; I just knew the basics. On the surface, the plot of a detective reopening a cold case because an author published a book with exact details of the crime that were never made public is a pretty enticing turn on an old trick. However, the film's cleverness quickly begins to fade as it meanders from one basic and predictable plot point to the next.
On that note, in any mystery the detective or the surrogate trying to solve the case on their own needs to have motivation. Why are they doing this? What drives them to stick their nose into a dangerous world? That motivation is decidedly absent for Carrey's Tadek. Without that motivation it makes a number of the character's decisions seem rash or pointless and as a result, how the plot unfolds feels contrived. It feels as if there were a smart beginning and a clever shocking end, but the filmmakers struggled to fill the in-between scenes and instead the simple path of least resistance was charted. There aren't really any red herrings or distractions to keep you guessing. If you're paying attention the identity of the murderer isn't all that shocking.
While a Polish accent may be a bit out of depth for Jim Carrey, he actually does a fine job for most of the film. His Detective Tadek is a man who spends most of his time in his head with few words. Carrey handily brings a focused intensity to the character as you can see him believably piecing together various clues and working things out. The cat and mouse game he shares with Csokas' menacing Kozlov is some good stuff. Csokas is a master at chewing scenery and it's actually fun watching him get to be the outlandish one while Jim Carrey plays it calm and quiet. Equally impressive is Gainsbourg in a diminutive role as Kasia with a few secrets of her own.
I wanted to like Dark Crimes, I really did. It's a neo-Noir thriller and I'm usually all about this sort of film. It starts out strong, establishes mood well enough, and you can see that Jim Carrey is really working hard. But after about the halfway point with only 45-minutes to go, the film's plodding pace sinks in and the traditional murder mystery pitfalls mean the detective has to move along a slow path to the finish without any detours. If you want a thrilling and effective European true crime murder mystery - do yourself a favor and pick up the excellent Serial Killer 1. As we don't really get to know Tadek and why he's so invested in the case, it becomes harder and harder to care as the film comes to a close. Maybe the next one will be Carrey's true Dramatic Breakout Movie. He's great here but the film itself doesn't do his effort justice.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Dark Crimes arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate in a single disc Blu-ray + Digital set. Pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in an eco-friendly case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for other Lionsgate releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
Dark Crimes is presented in what only could be described as an underwhelming 2.40:1 1080p transfer. Details are fine throughout the film allowing you to take in the drab and dour production design where everything is presented in shades of olive and gray. There are very few flourishes of color or primaries save for a few daylight sequences where some genuine pop comes in. Most scenes are held in oppressively dark and shadowy rooms with single source bright lights either from overhead lamps or through windows. Black levels are inky with great shadow work and contrast is only ever pushed in scenes by design. While this is an impressively shot film and extends an ominous sense of doom to the mood, it's a very flat looking feature. So few moments appear to have any appreciable depth. It's free of any artifacts or compression issues, but at the same time, there isn't any spark of life to it.
Dark Crimes sports a strong English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix that carries the film very well. The film is often very quiet and contemplative with long slowly-paced shots with subtle sound effects to help fill the soundscape. The walking of shoes on concrete, the opening and closing of a desk, and the sound of leafing through pages in a file folder all gain a heightened prominence. When the film is at its best these sounds are effectively unsettling and help set the tone. Dialog is also given extra attention as there are long stretches without anyone saying anything. Spacing and atmosphere are always appreciative; again, for the reason that the sound design isn't cluttered up, you can hear how these individual elements interact within a tight cramped room or a wide open space.
Given that the film was initially released in Europe in 2016 and sat on a shelf for two years before coming to the U.S., it's not at all surprising that little to no effort was made on the part of the bonus features here. The making of feature covers the traditional EPK basics, but thankfully they do offer up a little bit of insight into the production.
The Making of Dark Crimes (HD 19:42) A decidedly better than average EPK sort of making of feature with cast and crew interviews - save for Jim Carrey.
Jim Carrey once again aims to prove himself as a dramatic actor in the wrong film. In Dark Crimes, he brings a subtle and committed intensity to a humdrum by the book murder mystery that is based on a true story that is far more interesting than the film itself. It's a shame because Carrey really stretches here and shows he's got the range to pull this material off, he's great in it, it's just the script struggles to connect the dots and is void of any real mystery. Lionsgate brings the film to Blu-ray with a well detailed but flat looking transfer and a strong audio mix. Bonus features are slim but what's here is actually better than average. I really wanted to like Dark Crimes, and the first half works very well, but the final result felt like a copout than a real twist. If you're curious, Give It A Rent.