Dead Man Down tells the story of Victor (Colin Farrell), a grieving and vengeful man, who is sneakily harassing and ultimately wants to execute kingpin, Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard), the man responsible for his wife and daughter’s deaths. Victor soon meets Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), a young woman, who occupies the same apartment building as himself. The two go on their first date and Victor quickly learns that Beatrice, who has recently been in a horrible car accident that left her facially scarred, caused by a drunk driver who went unpunished, now wants Victor to murder the driver.
The acting is what truly sells Dead Man Down. As usual, Farrell, churns out a compelling performance. His Victor is complicated, intense, yearning for retribution and freedom from pain. Rapace’s Beatrice carries those same characteristics. Farrell and Rapace are two actors who do a lot of their best work without saying anything. There is a scene in Beatrice’s apartment at the kitchen table, when Victor is sifting through Beatrice’s photo album given to him by Beatrice’s mother, and Beatrice, with facial scars that are not present in the photos, looks on with raw discomfort and sadness in her eyes. The scene is largely played with intense gazes and looks, and it is the film’s most emotional moment, solely because it has such fine thespians at its center, aggressively acting with silence. Additionally, Terrence Howard is excellent as Alphonse, Victor’s prime enemy.
What gives Dead Man Down its edge, other than its acting, is its character and story structure. Colin Farrell’s Victor motives, intentions and past are slowly and carefully revealed as the narrative progresses and the same can be said for Rapace’s. The film’s advertisements suggest this is an action movie, and while action takes up the bulk of its final thirty minutes, this movie is largely about the people, the two leads, their shadowy paths, and their deep connection and affection for one another. Their story builds and builds, laced with plenty of suspense, until we reach an explosive and logical finish.
Dead Man Down is a gratifying picture. It may be goofy at times and its script might not be the most clever words, but as a revenge, love story it succeeds, mostly due to the performances from Farrell, Rapace, and Howard. Even with the recurring presence of the yellow rabbit’s foot that seems out of place and the bullying of Beatrice’s character by a group of kids, who certainly has facial scarring, but even with it is quite attractive, seems kind of farfetched and a bit overblown, the film works.
These actors manage to turn what would have been a piece of junk in the hands of others, into a fun and engaging flick. Dead Man Down is from an original screenplay by J.H. Wyman. It’s not a sequel, prequel, remake, spin-off or adaptation. It’s a made-up, new story and a major theatrical release that’s actually good and for that, it deserves some credit and attention.