A good story gets stuck in a puddle of mood in “Dark Crimes,” a film that strays from its fascinating source — a real-life murder case — into a less successful attempt at noir.
Loosely based on a true-crime article in The New Yorker, the fictional plot finds a bearded and brooding Jim Carrey as a Polish policeman, Tadek, investigating the death of a man whose bound corpse was discovered in a body of water.
Tadek becomes convinced that the victim was killed by Kozlov (Marton Csokas), a nihilistic writer whose novel features passages that mimic the crime. Before long Tadek is caught in a cat-and-mouse game with Kozlov and his girlfriend, Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg).
Throughout the film, prologue undermines payoff as scenes are shot in exceedingly deliberate takes. When these terse and cryptic characters finally decide to speak, there’s sure to be a buildup, a long stare and a pained expression to linger over; everything here feels a third longer than necessary. By the time the semi-interesting ending arrives, you’re already exhausted.
From the start, Mr. Carrey lurks around the shadowy sets and dilapidated rooms, obsessed. He is committed to his stooped-shoulder character, and admirably invested in the path the film follows, even as it meanders. Jeremy Brock’s script does him no favors. While David Grann’s New Yorker piece was focused and taut, Mr. Brock and the director Alexandros Avranas have serious problems with pacing.
“Dark Crimes” finds its better moments in the final act, when the characters are forced into some kind of action, and as the dark color schemes endeavor to create an atmosphere the script can’t. Indeed, there’s often an interesting shot to see, at the expense of a story to watch.
Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes.