With such a lackadaisically aimless performance, there’s not even much novelty in seeing Carrey play so aggressively against type in this oppressively artless slog.
Providing the lone instance of thought-provoking dialogue in the interminably-paced and deeply misogynistic psychosexual thriller Dark Crimes, the prime suspect in a murder case declares that truth is a synthetic construct that doesn’t exist outside of human perception. This fits within the existential philosophy Jim Carrey has espoused over the past year through a series of fascinating and occasionally awkward interviews in which he’s asserted his belief that individual identity is an illusion. Had Carrey been cast as the philosophizing murder suspect and brash author Kozlow (Marton Csokas), there may have been a shred of appeal to be salvaged from this fetid film. As it stands, Carrey’s stultifying performance as the aloof and hapless Polish investigator Tadek leaves Dark Crimes to wallow in its own pointless vulgarity.
As a disgraced cop trying to restore his reputation by cracking a cold case involving a murdered businessman and a violent sex club, Tadek becomes fixated on the brazen Kozlow, a famous author prone to pompously insulting the intelligence of his fans. But in one of his novels, Kozlow has apparently made the mistake of including details of a murder scene that only the killer in Tadek’s cold case would know. Tadek’s growing obsession with the case has endangered his joyless marriage, a tenuous relationship stretched even thinner when Kozlow’s troubled girlfriend, Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), becomes increasingly entangled in both Tadek’s professional and personal lives.
Throughout the film, sex is portrayed solely in violent terms, beginning with an opening shot of a nude woman bound and suspended, twirling in the air. The sex club at the center of the businessman’s murder operates with only one rule: that patrons may do whatever they please to a woman short of killing her. One scene even depicts a half-dozen women crawling around on all-fours, led on leashes. Of course, much of this savage misogyny is meant to unsubtly fuel Tadek’s outrage at the violence and depravity within his Polish city (in which everyone speaks accented English for some reason) while serving as a setup for his own moral degradation as the film proceeds. But it’s presented so crudely as to render it as cheap exploitation dressed up as edgy profundity. The brutal sex becomes especially problematic with the introduction of Kasia, who echoes Gainsbourg’s libidinous role in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, as she demands to be physically hurt during the act. Her embodiment of a toxic male rape fantasy stands in for any actual complexity of character.
Despite the lurid subject matter, the film’s pacing is so laboriously plodding that the whole drab affair is simply boring. Alexandros Avranas’ camera remains inert through many lengthy shots of people doing next to nothing. Tadek sulks and broods for minutes at a time, and yet he remains frustratingly inscrutable. Carrey’s hint of a Polish accent comes and goes, even though he’s a protagonist of confoundingly few words. And with such a lackadaisically aimless performance, there’s not even much novelty in seeing Carrey play so aggressively against type in this oppressively artless slog.