Starting from now and once every month, I will be reviewing a film that came out in the 2010s that went largely unacknowledged and ignored at the time of release, then were mostly forgotten in retrospect. Both hidden gems and rightfully shunted failures will be featured and it will be one film from each year. Beginning in 2018 is the mystery thriller Dark Crimes.
In Poland, Detective Tadek (Jim Carrey) is investigating the murder of a rich businessman. It turns out that this is connected to a famous author named Kozlov (Marton Csokas), who had written about a similar murder in one of his books. Kozlov is arrested and the investigation continues, with Tadek discovering that there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Dark Crimes is one of those films with the dreaded 0 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, sharing a place with infamous bad movies like Gotti (2018) and Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever (2002). Despite this, it’s not the kind of film that feels like it should be there. It even feels like the kind of film that should be good. The premise alone is intriguing (its loosely inspired by a true story that I recommend looking up), and it could have been a comeback for Jim Carrey. Despite falling into controversy over the years, he has not lost his talent and his performance does show that his dramatic skills are still very undervalued. He pulls off a half-way decent Polish accent and sells a lot of emotion without falling into overacting. If anything, it is a performance that is deserving of a better film.
The film’s problems can be seen from the very beginning. The opening credits montage feels choppily edited, cutting between sexual depravity and title cards in a blunt manner that does not flow together. Then when it comes to Tadek and the start of his investigation, literally no setup or context is given. There’s dialogue throughout that explains things we should have seen, like Tadek not having a good reputation among his colleagues, which creates the feeling that we have been dropped into a story halfway through. This is an issue that persists throughout. The storytelling does not have a natural flow because scenes feel like they have no build-up and little consequence, with a sex scene and a death scene especially feeling like they come out of nowhere.
Even when the story is coherent, it is still un-investing. This comes a lot from the supreme lack of characterisation given to Tadek. He’s the same “obsessed, lonely and troubled detective“ archetype we’ve seen dozens of times, with no complexity. As a result, Carrey’s strong performance is in service of nothing. The lack of investment also comes from the fact that every main relationship feels incredibly underdeveloped, especially the ones between both Tadek and his wife and his mother, which wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the film wasn’t asking you to care about them in certain scenes.
Technically speaking, Dark Crimes does feel like it was helmed by a talented director, with cinematography that goes for a style of framing that is honestly eye-catching. However, it also lacks excitement due to the relentless self-seriousness on display. There’s an occasional moment where the film will decide to amp itself up (often by throwing in sexual violence against women, all of which feels exploitative and misjudged), but for the most part, the direction is so relentlessly dour that it forgets to entertain the audience in any capacity. Even for a slow-burn, it’s too much.
This all culminates in a massive dud of an ending. It genuinely feels like there was going to be more, but instead it just stops on a note that leaves you confused and infuriated. It’s systematic of the main problem with this film, that being how lazily thrown together yet overworked it feels. There’s no more proof of that than the wildly overlong opening studio logos montage, suggesting that this was a project that started out with potential but slowly became muddled and was eventually treated with apathy once it became clear it was not working.
Dark Crimes is not one of the worst films of the decade, but it is easily one of the most disappointing. A story with this much potential deserved better than the slapdash execution. The fact that the recent Sonic the Hedgehog is a better Carrey vehicle than this might seem surprising, but it really isn’t.