With the bulk of the movie going audience focused on the merry old land of... well you know, it doesn't mean there isn't some interesting looking counterprogramming going on. "Dead Man Down" is a gritty little crime thriller from the director of the original "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" that while rife with problems was still kind of interesting.
"Dead Man Down" introduces us to Victor (Colin Farrell) a noble and brave man in a world of thieves and killers serving as the right hand man to an underworld crime lord (Terrence Howard) who years earlier was responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. As Victor slowly plots and unravels his revenge, his paths cross with his beautiful and brooding neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) who was the victim of a horrible car accident that left her disfigured, and she is unable to find a release for her need for revenge, until she meets Victor and blackmails him into murdering her assailant. As both Victor and Beatrice spiral further down the rabbit hole in their search for revenge their intense chemistry grows and grows into a violent and cathartic showdown for all involved.
With his American debut, director Niels Arden Oplev certainly knows how to frame a shot as he takes this neo-noir set on the streets and back alleys of the modern American metropolis and makes it a gritty and grimy experience that drips with desperation and sweat at every turn using light and dark for every ounce of effect that he could get. Oplev at times goes a little too far with the hyper-styilzation as times, but it is a film that had a very deliberate look. It moves at a reasonable pace and there was a brief action/chase sequence in the middle of the film that made me wish he'd get to tackle a straight up action film because he could make it look incredibly good. The script from J.H. Wyman had some decent moments but got a little too wrapped up in itself at times as they were entire segments and set pieces that just didn't make a whole lot of sense scattered at odd times throughout the film. While something like that works well enough on "Fringe" the TV show that he previously wrote for, without any legitimate payoffs to certain angles it can be a little annoying. The overall narrative really did feel like a B movie story of revenge that had an overwrought dramatic love story draped over top of it, sometimes it worked and sometimes it was just as awkward as hell when it had no idea what kind of film it really wanted to be. Despite all of this the dynamic between Farrell and Rapace was enough to keep the audience engaged.
Saddled with the chore of sounding like he had to suppress a Hungarian accent (it really wouldn't have changed anything if they had let him be Irish) Colin Farrell does a good enough job as a broken man looking to psychologically torture his subject and complete his revenge until he is inexorably drawn to another alternative, one that is potentially more satisfying and he wears that fear and hesitation in the characters eyes very well. Even with a hideous scare on her face, Noomi Rapace still effectively oozes such a raw and compelling sexuality that you could feel the raw energy between her and Farrell's character. It felt very forced in the first half of the film but at one point it just found the right groove to ride out the rest of the film. Sadly the supporting cast of Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper, Isabelle Huppert, Armand Assante and F. Murray Abraham were fairly wasted, but Farrell and Rapace at least keep us hooked long enough to buy into the story that has more then it's fair share of logic holes and incongruities.
At the end of the day, "Dead Man Down" was trying to force what could have very easily been an entertaining B-movie style pulp-filled love and revenge tale into an A-List style package that appeared to be more than it actually was. It's worth a look, if only for curiosities sake, but you don't need to rush either.
2 out of 5 stars.
"Dead Man Down" is playing in theaters all across Canada, check with your local listings for show times.