Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Dominic Cooper, Terrence Howard
Plot: Victor (Farrell) launches an assault on two gangs who killed his family and left him for dead, while dealing with his neighbour (Rapace), who plans on blackmailing him to fulfil her own agenda…

Dead Man Down has the opportunity of being a really interesting film. I understand completely where director Oplev is coming from and the message he is trying to convey during the film. However, it is how he tells the story that lets this movie down.

It opens with gang leader, Alphonse Hoyt, receiving threatening, cryptic messages. Hoyt sends his men running around trying to find the mystery enemy, unaware that one of his own henchmen, Victor, played by Colin Farrell, is secretly the guy trying to kill him. While Victor carries out his convoluted plan (it makes sense in a roundabout way, but there must have been a simpler way to kill the guy), his neighbour, Beatrice, spots him murder one of Hoyt’s thugs. Beatrice, who was disfigured by a car accident, decides to blackmail Victor into killing the guy who drunkenly crashed into her car.

Rapace spent weeks working on the perfect 'mope' face.

Rapace spent weeks working on the perfect ‘mope’ face.

It is kind of an interesting story, and plot holes aside, I can see that the real charm of this film is the universal theme of revenge rather than a specific storyline. As Victor and Beatrice get closer to each other, you realise that they would be far happier abandoning their need for vengeance and running off into the sunset together. Neither character ever seems happy as their plans begin working and they get closer to killing the people who wronged them. It is almost as if both Farrell and Rapace believe they are working for a higher calling. I enjoyed that aspect of the film, even if it threw away that moral for a cool action scene to end the movie on. It is just that the film plods along so slowly and focuses on exposition we don’t really need, that we lose interest in the whole story.

Part of me feels that this film is trying to mimic the success of Drive, a few years back. When Farrell and Rapace go for their first date, there is little dialogue and it felt like the director was going for a deeper character piece than an action. It is just that the film always hints that something explosive is just around the corner that never really comes. I began to grow tired of the characters and wished that there would just be some shooting. I think some of the characters were poorly written. For the first half hour of the movie, we are left trying to guess who the good guys and the bad guys are. Even when we finally get the whole of Victor and Beatrice’s back story, part of us is still expecting one more twist to be thrown at us, meaning that we never quite settle into the story.

Fighting through the subway station can be hell.

Fighting through the subway station can be hell.

The two leads are terrific however. Victor is more of the quiet type, but Farrell does well to portray him. The actor always seems to work better on these smaller films rather than the big blockbusters, like Total Recall. Rapace is the true star of the film though. She is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses, finally getting a role that allows her to show us what she is made of. Despite the script trying to give us the impression that she is a crazy bitch, Rapace keeps the character grounded and we pity her throughout the story. The guy who lets the side down is actually Terrence Howard. His acting isn’t bad (he delivers some pretty decent evil villain monologues), but for some reason, he sticks on this stupid accent. We are meant to be scared of the guy and then he will say something in a corny voice and we are left trying to fight back the sniggers.

The finale is pretty awesome though. It is a shame, because it really shows us all of the elements that we wanted to see throughout the entire thing. Most of the budget must have gone into the explosive fight and it is pretty satisfying. However, a good final ten minutes cannot save it. It does get points for an awesome French song. It has been stuck in my head all day.

Final verdict: Decent idea slowed down to a crawl by too much narrative. We can’t wait for the film to be over.

Two stars

One thought on “Dead Man Down: The Review

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