When thinking of the ideal cast for a grim murder mystery set in Poland, obviously the first choice is Jim Carrey. At least that was the genius idea that someone had when assembling the cast for director Alexandros Avranas’ Dark Crimes, a film that finished its production in 2016 only to sit on the shelf before a very limited theatrical release this year. Now Dark Crimes arrives on DVD and Blu-ray and the mystery has been solved as to why this movie has sat of the shelf for two years. It’s a muddled, incoherent slog featuring a woefully miscast Carrey as the lead, complete with a wobbly Polish accent and a comatose screen presence.
Dark Crimes is based ever so loosely on a true story. David Grann wrote the story in The New Yorker entitled True Crime: A Postmodern Murder Mystery about Krystian Bala, an author who committed a murder and left clues to his crimes in his debut novel. One police officer thought that Bala’s novel was more than just a work of literary fiction and followed the clues that led to the author’s conviction for murder in 2007. It’s a wild and crazy story. Something so brazen and twisted would be incredibly hard to screw up. Well, they screwed it up all right.
Carrey stars as Tadek, a Polish police officer who has fallen out of favor in the department as well as at home. In an underground sex club, there has been a murder of a wealthy businessman. Investigating the crime, Tadek delves deeper and deeper into the seedy underbelly of his Polish town, deeply affecting his already warped psyche. Things get more complicated once Tadek discovers the writings of Kozlov (Marton Csokas), who fictional story practically retells every detail of the unsolved murder. The author professes his innocence and uses the media to smear his investigator, further diminishing his standing within the police department. Tadek follows the clues all the way to Kozlov’s girlfriend Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Everything in this grim and endlessly depressing story drives Tadek further and further into a rabbit hole of degeneracy and despair. It is, after all, Dark Crimes.
The one thing that is impressive about Dark Crimes is how it’s able to make its sordid tale of sex clubs, sadomasochism, and murder most foul so incredibly boring. The cinematography by Michal Englert is the lone shining spot of this film as it perfectly captures the drab and dreary despair of the film. However, director Alexandros Avranas struggle to make two successive shots work together, leaving Dark Crimes with a disjointed feel that makes you think that perhaps every other scene of the film was slashed and burned.
One must assume that Jim Carrey had to check all of his charisma at customs. Nobody is expecting Carrey to bring his rubber-faced wackiness to his police detective but at least a bit of personality. Instead, Carrey is practically in a doped up stupor throughout the film. The one time that Carrey seems to show the faintest bit of life in this dreadful film is the incredibly awkward sex scene with Charlotte Gainsbourg, complete with oddly placed shots of Carrey’s naked back – not his backside, mind you, but his back as his hips thrust. It’s a ghastly shot in an unbearable sex scene.
Of course, Dark Crimes concludes with a twist. It’s not one of those twists that makes you gasp and rethink everything that came before. It’s more of a twist that makes go “Huh?” and shrug as you quickly turn the movie off. It’s perfectly fitting that a movie so dreary, so drab, so damn boring would conclude with an ineffectual twist. Dark Crimes is a movie that really thinks it has something to say about the darkest corners of the human mind only to discover that they’re not exactly dark, just completely hollow.