Swedish actress Noomi Rapace rose to international fame as the original ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.’ She starred in last year’s disappointing Ridley Scott film, ‘Prometheus.’ It has yet to be proven whether she can carry a film in the United States to box office success. Her latest film, ‘Dead Man Down’ reunites her with ‘Dragon Tattoo’ director Niels Arden Oplev in his first English-language feature film. This action thriller intrigued me for only one reason. Noomi Rapace is in it. She is talented, captivating to watch, and a risk-taker with her film choices. This film is a mess but it is still surprisingly watchable due to top-notch acting and stylish filmmaking.
So what went wrong? The screenplay is rubbish. It was penned by J.H. Wyman who is buddies with J.J. Abrams. They collaborated together on the hit television show ‘Fringe.’ Wyman’s only other feature screenwriting credit comes from the forgettable movie, ‘The Mexican.’ There is a phenomenon in moviemaking coined ‘the suspension of disbelief.’ Simply put, the audience is willing to give up a certain degree of reality to stay engrossed in the story. The problem with ‘Dead Man Down’ is that the story introduces one unbelievable plot twist after another. This leads to insulting the audience’s intelligence. It ultimately makes you feel less empathetic to the main characters’ plight.
On the surface, this thriller is a revenge film. Victor (Colin Farrell) is plotting the deaths of a gang responsible for killing his family. The gang’s leader Alphonse (Terrence Howard) keeps getting cryptic messages from a mysterious enemy. Right off the bat, the audience knows that person is Victor who has infiltrated the gang, works for Alphonse now and is obsessed with taking down the crime boss. In a Tarantino-style “shoot-‘em-up’ scene, Alphonse’s crew slaughters a Jamaican gang he believes is responsible for harassing him. At this point, Victor has a chance to kill Alphonse but spares him. It’s unbelievable but there would be no movie if Alphonse died this early.
While vacuuming his apartment, Victor gets a mysterious phone call from Beatrice (Noomi Rapace). This is the first time I’ve ever seen a trained assassin vacuuming his carpet but it is a unique touch to the scene. She explains that she has been admiring him from afar. He looks out his apartment window and sees her waving at him from the apartment building across the street. It reminds you how brilliant Alfred Hitchcock was with the film, ‘Rear Window’ since this scene borrows so much from it. This phone call leads to a first date between Victor and Beatrice. It is an awkward first date at a Chinese restaurant between the two. The dialogue at the dinner table is actually witty. There is a definite chemistry between the two lost souls.
The interesting plot twist of the film is that Beatrice is also out for revenge. Her face was disfigured in a car accident. She feels the perpetrator got off the hook and wants Victor to kill him. In order to get Victor to commit such a heinous act, she shows him an incriminating video on her smart phone. The video shows Victor killing a man from his apartment building window. In real life, I’m certain Victor would kill Beatrice for trying to blackmail him. However, there is something alluring and titillating about Beatrice that keeps Victor intrigued by her. These are two dark individuals meant for each other.
This is a film that keeps you interested because the acting is so good. They make the most out of the problematic screenplay. Besides the exceptional performances by Farrell and Rapace, French veteran actress Isabelle Huppert plays Beatrice’s crazy mother. The scene between Farrell and Huppert talking about Tupperware containers is so strange but humorous at the same time. Without disclosing any spoilers, the climactic scene is over-the-top but so are Tarantino films. Ultimately, this is an action film trying to be a psychological thriller that doesn’t quite make the grade. It’s definitely an entertaining enough film to put on your rental list. ‘Dead Man Down’ is now playing at Edwards Boise 22 Stadium, Edwards BoDo Stadium 9 and Majestic Cinemas – Meridian.