"Dead Man Down" is an action drama directed by Niels Arden Oplev, who previously directed the critically acclaimed 2009 Swedish made-for-TV movie "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." It marks a big departure for him, as he has previously only directed Danish and Swedish language films. The huge success of his movie adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel may well have contributed to his debut in Hollywood.
His new movie stars Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace. Oplev cast Repace in the titular role of his adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," so audiences should be able to see the benefits of that previous working relationship come through on screen. Farrell plays Victor, a hitman in New York who finds himself seduced by, and then blackmailed into helping, Rapace's character, Beatrice, as she enacts a murderous revenge plot.
Beatrice is Victor's new neighbor who records him killing a man in his apartment. On seeing this she knows he is the right man for the job of disposing of a crime boss, Alphonse Hoyt (Terrance Howard), who brutally maimed her, leaving her with a scar down the center of her face. Things are further complicated by the fact that Hoyt is Victor's boss. It remains to be seen exactly why a professional hitman should allow himself to be blackmailed by a seemingly harmless woman with a single video recording of him, but the trailers suggest that Victor has additional motivations.
Victor already intends to kill Hoyt. Despite Victor being a trusted right hand man for the crime boss, Hoyt's actions have left Victor's wife and daughter dead and he is out for revenge. With such aligned goals, it wouldn't at all be surprising to see a romance flourish between Victor and Beatrice, assuming the two come out of this situation alive. The trailers certainly hint at the natural chemistry between the two.
The trailers are dark and stylish, evoking the director's roots in Scandinavian crime thrillers. As we've come to expect from Hollywood action films however, there are plenty of explosions and special effects on display. The cover of Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" in the trailers is juxtaposed with the intense action, hinting that the movie isn't just a violent romp. It's hard to tell just yet how heavily the final movie will lean on its Scandinavian heritage, but the revenge theme is central to many of those movies, including Oplev's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." No doubt WWE Studios and FilmDistrict know that riffing on this popular theme is likely to drive people to the movie in their hordes.
J.H. Wyman wrote the original screenplay for "Dead Man Down." His most recent other work has been as a co-executive producer and writer on the FOX TV show "Fringe." "Fringe" is a show known for its dark themes and melancholy characters, so creating a story so obviously inspired by the currently fashionable Scandinavian crime dramas should be a natural step for him. It's been a while since Wyman has penned a movie, though. He wrote the 2001 comedy film "The Mexican," which met with mixed reviews but performed well at the box office. Hopefully a twelve-year gap between big screen screenplays won't hinder his ability to pull together a tight movie-length narrative. Wyman also serves as producer for the movie, alongside Neal Moritz ("The Fast and the Furious", "Total Recall").
"Dead Man Down" really feels like a melting pot for different creative people. It's hard to know exactly what to expect from the movie given that both the writer and director are untested on the Hollywood stage. Since starring in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Noomi Rapace has already made the shift to Hollywood, starring in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" and "Prometheus," in 2011 and 2012 respectively. She was received well by critics of both movies. Colin Farrell's recent outings have been more hit and miss. He was last seen in "Seven Psychopaths" in 2012, which was a hit with the critics but floundered at the box office. The reverse was true of his other 2012 appearance, "Total Recall."
"Dead Man Down" is rated R and due for release in cinemas on March 8. Expect to see a broad mixture of people going to see it. It's sure to attract fans of the Scandinavian crime thriller but should also appeal to moviegoers out to see a high octane Hollywood action movie.