A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dark Crimes is an exploitative thriller that's preoccupied with deviant sex. Based on an acclaimed New Yorker article, it centers on a semi-retired detective (Jim Carrey) in Poland who's obsessed with a cold case involving an S&M-bound corpse. Intense, mature topics including fetish sex, drug use, rape, and murder are discussed; the detective encounters many sex workers. Expect lots of sexual violence, as well as murder, a character's head being hit against a table, and more. The sexual content that's not explicitly violent still has a violent undercurrent; there's extensive female nudity and a multitude of "deviant" sexual acts, often involving devices, bondage, and at least the illusion of rape. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," and more.
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What's the story?
DARK CRIMES, based on an acclaimed New Yorker article about an actual murder, stars Jim Carrey as a deep-voiced Polish detective named Tadek who's slowly chasing down a cold case involving an underground sex club. He discovers that an author's (Marton Csokas) new novel contains details of the crime that hadn't been publicly released. Investigating, Tadek becomes entangled with the author's girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a drug-addicted sex worker and mother. There are hints of official interference and police corruption along the way.
Is it any good?
This is a very well-shot, interestingly cast, suspense-free, empty exploitation film. First and foremost, its aim is to titillate and shock with images and stories of women being sexually humiliated. Despite being based on an actual case, Dark Crimes isn't really a detective story. Tadek does little actual detecting, which is particularly unrewarding as the case winds down. Veteran viewers will sniff out most of the story's twists long before the film presents them as "amazing" revelations. The corruption thread is barely explored or explained, and the relationships, except for one, are no more than gestures. It is attention-grabbing to see Carrey in such a grim role, but even his character is opaque -- Tadek's motivations, emotional responses, etc., like everything else in the film, are only hinted at, not experienced. The intended cat-and-mouse game with Csokas never materializes.
And poor Gainsbourg. She's an intelligent, brave actress whose talents are squandered here. Vlad Ivanov, who was unforgettable in the brilliant Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days, is also utterly wasted in a small role as a probably too-helpful official. The film is of the "Tsk tsk, pooh pooh, look at this" school of morality, a Puritanical exercise in decrying rape and sexual humiliation while putting plenty of it on display. Notably, only attractive women are the victims/objects. As there's nothing to figure out and no characters or dialogue to intrigue audiences, there's little left to this film besides exploitation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Dark Crimes uses sexual images and themes. What do you think the filmmakers' intent was? Are nudity and discussions/depictions of extreme sexual practices necessary to the story? If not, what were they there for?
What's the impact of having almost all of the women in the story be sex workers, except for two who are depicted as having no sex drive or sexual activity?
- In theaters: May 18, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: July 31, 2018
- Cast: Jim Carrey, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Martin Csokas, Vlad Ivanov
- Director: Alexandros Avranas
- Studio: Saban Films
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong and disturbing violent/sexual content including rape, graphic nudity, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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