In Alexandros Avranas’s Dark Crimes, a former police detective, Tadek (Jim Carrey), delves into a cold case previously investigated by a former colleague, Greger (Robert Wieckiewicz), who’s now the chief of police. A year earlier, Tadek’s overzealous pursuit of his suspicions of Greger’s involvement in shady activities, including drugs and an underground sex club, led to his demotion. Tadek’s unofficial inquiry into the murder of a man who was pumped with Rohypnol and hogtied steers him toward Kozlow (Marton Csokas), a novelist whose last, unpublished work of baroque sexual sadism happens to perfectly describe the unsolved murder, with details only the killer could know—a lead that Tadek believes could solve the case and restore his reputation.
Kozlow is a caricature of a pretentious European artist, a hot-head who insults his own work, his readers, and fans before storming out of a Q&A—and to admiring applause. Tadek, in kind, is a cliché of the redemption-hankering detective, chasing a cold case at the expense of his marriage to his exasperated wife, Marta (Agata Kulesza), while meeting disapproval from his bosses on the force. Carrey plays Tadek with the erect posture of Anthony Perkins but without any of the nervous energy that seemed to jerk Perkins upright in a role such as Norman Bates. Carrey is laconic even when Tadek leads his interrogations with Kozlow, who responds to his questions with philosophically elliptical non-answers—the Jesus to Tadek’s Pilate.
Though you can’t quite tell from the accent that Carrey occasionally employs, Dark Crimes is set in Poland, or at least a version of it in which everyone, even the talk show hosts, speaks English. The country appears perpetually overcast and just-rained-on, the plant life is a grayish shade of green, and the people who live there dress almost all in black, including Kozlow’s girlfriend, Kasia (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Jeremy Brock’s screenplay, “inspired by” a New Yorker article by David Grann about the novelist and convicted murderer Krystian Bala, moves so swiftly it often stumbles, like a slasher victim rushing through the woods. In one scene, a friendly higher-up, Piotr (Vlad Ivanov), drops in on Tadek just to summarize the events of the last year or so. And Avranas moves through this material in gloomy, flat-footed fashion, with the moody aesthetics of someone who considers music videos from the 1990s to have been the height of cinematic achievement. (The opening scene—at a depraved sex club where a woman, naked except for a mask, hangs by her wrists from the ceiling—recalls Mark Romanek’s video for Nine Inch Nails’s “Closer.”)
There’s a lot of sexual violence in Dark Crimes, from beatings and rapes to a pack of naked women on leashes, crawling on their knees. There are many more shots of Gainsbourg’s buttocks than the story would seem to require. Presumably, this is all intended to reflect the depravity of the film’s world, but it scans as blatantly misogynistic, as well as unimaginatively repulsive—just like every other aspect of this pseudo-intellectual, pitiably inept thriller.