You'd never know it from the glut of bad reviews it's getting, but Niels Arden Oplev's Dead Man Down isn't half bad. The film, Oplev's first English language feature and first since his internationally acclaimed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, treads the line between art-house and action thriller; stumbles occasionally, but succeeds in the end. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander in the original Dragon Tattoo) and Colin Farrell star as a pair of unlikely lovers, each out for their own brand of sweet, sweet vengeance.
I can't help but wonder why Dead Man Down wasn't titled something more appropriate. Sure, a number of men die in the movie but something along the lines of Vengeance would have been more fitting. Nevertheless, the film's title ends up of little importance as Dead Man Down is a movie propelled by characters. Farrell plays Vic, a brooding mob enforcer who works for the seedy Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard). Farrell does a tremendous job channeling his inner Ryan Gosling, as Vic's attitude is similar to that of Drive's nameless driver character. Comparisons aside, Farrell proves suitably badass in the role. Rapace is Beatrice, a beautician recently disfigured in a brutal car wreck, who lives with her amusing French mother in an apartment opposite Vic's. Vic and Beatrice observe each other from afar, exchanging glances across the urban chasm separating them. Curiosities are piqued, numbers exchanged, a date is arranged. The two meet for the first time. What follows is a twisted tale of love and revenge, dirty in all the right ways.
Complaints have been made about Dead Man Down's believability and I have to wonder if the people complaining saw the same movie as I. Granted, it seems law enforcement of any kind is miraculously absent in movies such as Dead Man Down (those which feature a large amount of nefarious/illegal activity). However, if there was a weighty police presence in these films, how thrilling would they be? Imagine Jules and Vincent getting arrested halfway through Pulp Fiction. Just take a couple seconds and imagine that. Believable? Yes. Exciting? Not in the least. It seems some find one tiny, insignificant thing about a film which they don't like and then proceed to pick the rest of the movie apart. This is logic I do not understand. Was Dead Man Down a perfect film? By no means. Yes, the writing could have been better as there were some painfully cheesy lines. But the actors do a fantastic job with what they're given and the cheese is quickly forgotten in favor of Oplev's slick direction and visual style.
For those unfamiliar with Oplev's previous work, Dead Man Down truly feels like a film of his own. It should be noted I am not a big fan of mob/mafia/gangster films and it takes some quality for a film of that genre to appeal to me. Dead Man Down did just that, and more. Great acting and a unique story, combined with Oplev's tight direction, make Dead Man Down well worth the price of admission.